“Landscape Dogs” by Nils Karlson

My girlfriend (and now my wife) & I  decided to get herself a dog, after falling in love with a black and white, shortlegged, and rebellious greek mutt called Romeo, we decided to keep the name hoping that he might react to it with affection and romance us over.  This proved to be wrong with this one-year-old very self-determined spirit, but we stuck with the name anyway and Romeo gathered some quirky nicknames along the way.  Today he even reacts to “Bomber“ which became a term because his pronounced underbite resembled some what of a motor head fan.

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Also he had a knack for wild parties and quickly worked out the liking to  people as “the source for food”

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He can make a cookie miraculously disappear from some kid’s hand, before the kid even realising it

Also, he used to follow his nose a lot – closing his ears off to any attempt to stop him, self determination at work.  Uncounted times we yelled and cursed him for following some old walking tracks, looking back at us with a stare that resembled the words “I hear you but I have business to do, which is much more important”.  Romeo was moving across the landscape as in a mosh pit and at times showing off mountain goat genes.  Fortunately this behaviour slowly ceased throughout the years, to the point we just trust he won’t leap off too far and we can just give him some space to explore.

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When we got our second dog in 2010, we decided to call him Rüdiger, because…well, he looked like his name should be Rüdiger. Even at the age of five years back then, he seemed like an old and much more mature dog. Imagine a slightly grumpy old neighbour character.  Born in Tenerife (Spain), this fluffy, cream and brown furred dog came to Germany to live in a somewhat isolated place.  Rüdiger had a strong and dominant character and it didn’t phase him that he was not with his previous humans nor missing Tenerife.  Rüdiger seemed happy not to see either ever again.  We assumed he would get along with Romeo, and they did. Although not best buddies but they tolerated and accepted each other…. at least as long as Romeo received his bowl of food first the relationship seemed peaceful.

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Romeo & Rüdiger

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Although not best buddies but they tolerated and accepted each other…. at least as long as Romeo received his bowl of food first the relationship seemed peaceful.

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What Romeo & Rüdiger shared most was the dislike of too many people as company.  In the beginning Rüdiger disapproved men, he tolerated me. It took time to gain his trust, but he became increasingly attached, cuddly, and finally a real snuggle bug.  On cold winter nights, he used to crawl under the blanket to curl up in my knee pit.

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In the beginning Rüdiger disapproved men, he tolerated me

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In 2012 we traveled Brittany (France) for the first time.  I just started getting into film photography, and fell in love with the area.  The sea, the diversity of the landscape, and the incredible light conditions I knew I had to return to document this beauty.  We returned to Brittany – sometimes several times a year but it took another two years before I made the first photos of the dogs. The time was just right: I felt liberated by switching from slide film to colour negative film, and got a fresh breeze of inpiration from Jay Ryan’s poster works, Patrick McDonnell’s Mutts comic strips, and Therone Humphrey’s book Maddie On Things.

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Soon the general lack of speed of my medium format camera evolved into a concept which stayed with me. Instead of hunting for action, I got to move at the same pace as our slowest member of the pack Rüdiger.  Because of his overall health situation – age, arthritis, hip dysplasia, heart issues – he moved slower than Romeo.  So we adjusted our tempo to match his, giving us much more time to look at our surroundings.

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We became more aware of the small moments, the tiny gesture, the subtleties of light.  Also, his lack of speed made it possible to work with the RZ67 – an all manual monster of a camera, which has become my fun-camera.  That’s also why there are fewer photos of Romeo – he’s just too agile.

And who would have guessed the dog who used to run towards complete strangers because they have pizza,  disappears into thin air as soon as he senses the camera lens directed right at him?

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Over the years we traveled most of the coast of Brittany.  We hiked parts of the coastal trail and explored the hinterland.  Although vast areas of the region like all over Central Europe are deforested, the landscape is incredibly diverse. You will find sweeping sand beaches, pebble beaches, staggering cliffs, rocks biting into the sea like giant fangs, giant pink granite boulders, grassland, dunes, marshland, small forests at the sea, and larger bodies of woodlands in the backcountry.

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We did not count the distances we traveled, hikes, meals we had together, nights we spent in tents, apartments, or in our camper van.  There’s no list of places we’ve been but it feels like a whole life.

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In this lifetime, we clearly noticed Rüdiger was getting older.  Hikes got shorter, and the occasions we needed to carry him increased.  So did the occasions he felt sick.  During our last trip in August/September, we had more visits at the vet than hot meals, at least it felt like this. We already knew about a lung tumor adding to the long list of issues, but we still had hope he’d be fine for a while but we were wrong.

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On September 28th, just two weeks after our fall (autumn) trip, Rüdiger passed away.  The list of body malfunctions just got too long and all we could do for him is let him go in peace.

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It’s been an emotional rollercoaster since, but I know we’ll be fine. Romeo already enjoys he can set the pace on the much longer walks we do now. Both my wife and me will always be grateful for a lifetime we shared with Rüdiger.

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Thank you Rüdiger for the lovely memories

About Nils Karlson

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Nils Karlson lives in Germany and is passionate about colour and light, his dogs, great coffee & music.  His works have been included in solo and group exhibitions in Bochum, St. Louis, and Vilassar de Dalt, and published in the Film Shooters Collective book “NSEW“, as well as in “The f/D Book of Pinhole“.  In fall 2016, he published his first photo book “Earth Stands Still“, which sold out all 100 copies in less than three months. In May 2017, Nils Karlson was invited to the renowned Revela-T Analog Photography Festival in Vilassar de Dalt for the Artist Exchange Project.  The fruits of the collaborative works will be exhibited during Revela-T Festival 2018.  His latest publication – a photo journal entitled “Eyes Like Slumber“ can be ordered via his website.  Currently, he is working on a collaborative multiple exposure project for 2018 involving almost 50 film photographers from all over the world.

Developed & Scanned: Canadian Film Lab



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Contributor: All images used with permission for AFPS.blog by Nils Karlson