Meet the man behind 'The Dogist,' Instagram's most popular dog account

ByDave Alter and Alex Meier WABC logo
Friday, December 22, 2017
Catch up with the dogist
Meet the man behind the lens, hanging out with @TheDogist

NEW YORK, New York (WABC) -- Elias Weiss Friedman has a knack for making weird noises. He barks, he growls, he whimpers -- and it freaks people out, he admits.

He doesn't care, because he knows he has a gift. New Yorkers may not recognize Friedman's face, but millions have seen the faces of dogs as they react to his barks, growls and whimpers.

Friedman is the photographer behind "The Dogist," a photo-documentary series with more than 2.8 million followers on Instagram and two books, "THE DOGIST" and "THE DOGIST PUPPIES." Since launching "The Dogist" 4 years prior, Friedman's photographed more than 50,000 pups from all around the world.

Becoming a traveling dog photographer sounds like the quintessential dream job, but Friedman said it wasn't an instinctual career choice.

"No one sort of told me that was a possibility," he said.

Friedman's father introduced him to photography, and as a child, he'd take pictures of the family dogs. But as a career physician, his father saw photography as a hobby, and so Friedman also started adult life more conventionally -- he went to school, moved to New York City and worked as a brand strategist.

That is, until 2013, when Friedman was laid off.

"That was, sort of retrospectively, an awesome thing for me," he said. "It sort of allowed me to dust my camera off."

Soon after, he embarked on his first of many "dog safaris" and posted pictures of the dogs he met as "The Dogist." It took off almost immediately, Freidman said.


Elias Weiss Friedman, a.k.a. 'The Dogist,' is really good at making dog noises ...

"The Dogist" is known for its signature portraits of dogs who appear to pose like street style stars. As any right-minded dog owner knows, getting a dog to actually pose is no "w-a-l-k" in the park.

"They don't actually want their picture taken," Freidman said. "Even though it seems like they do."

That's why Friedman is well equipped with tools of the trade. He wears cargo pants and fills its pockets with doggy treats, a squeaky tennis ball and slobber wipes, for pooches who like to "kiss" the camera lens.

He also sports kneepads that make it easier for the 6-foot-something Friedman to crouch down to a dog's level. He'll make dog noises or move the tennis ball around his lens to capture the right moment. Friedman said he usually looks for eye contact, as it appears more intimate, more human. But these pictures are special because unlike humans, a dog's emotion is always candid.

Along the way, "The Dogist" has met many dogs with all kinds of stories, including a dachshund who ate a $100 and pooped it out intact and a lab with no eyes who could still play fetch. He's even let a German Shepard bite his arm - with a bite sleeve on, of course.

He also advocates for dogs in need. When ABC7NY met Friedman, he was photographing dogs at the ASPCA Adoption Center on the Upper East Side as part of Adopt a Shelter Dog Month.

"It's important to realize that dogs aren't always couch potatoes," he said. "They come from all different backgrounds ... so it's important to represent them all and give them the best shot."

This story is part of our ongoing digital series: Social Superstars.