My dog and my van. They aren’t truly mine. But I take care of them, I love them, I spend time and energy with them and they present themselves accordingly. A man in a BMW parked next to me in New Jersey, he was well dressed in a suit and carried a briefcase. He walked directly towards me. “Hey, what year is that?”. He recalled rolling into Woodstock in a splitty ('60s VW camper). It was a story that involved contraband and other unexpected elements. I wouldn’t have suspected this business stereotype to share this with me. We chatted for a while and exchanged good stories and good vibes and he was on his way.
This type of interaction occurs often enough with both the van and the dog. Folks approach me and tell me about their border collie, or their family dog who does hilarious things. I love this connection. My van and my dog are my business card. They start conversations with exactly the right people at exactly the right time. The transactions that ensue are not financial or scheduled, they’re natural and human. Based solely on a commonality that we clearly share.
Ultimately, this project isn’t only the story of a dog, or of a van. It’s the story of the change that these things bring into our lives, especially when we love them properly. We give them fuel and attention, and they connect us and start a conversation when we can’t find the words to do it ourselves. We are all open to these things that connect us, because we are creatures that seek connection. This project explores the nature of these connections.
Andrew Knapp is a photographer, designer, and co-founder of We Live Up Here – an organization that runs Up Here Festival in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He believes in the practice of art as a tool for connecting people, solving problems and strengthening communities. Author of two New York Times Best Sellers featuring photos of his dog Momo (Find Momo & Coast to Coast), Andrew balances a community mindset with a nomadic lifestyle. You can find him travelling with his dog, or grounding himself in Sudbury, his hometown.
Mamiya 645 medium format – 80mm 2.8 lens, 45mm 2.8 lens
Canon A-1 35mm – EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens, EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens
1984 Westfalia – 'Beige Venom'
Dogs & vans are a couple of those things that start conversations between us, but the list is infinite, really. Cameras are another one of the commonalities that give us a reason to talk to strangers. I decided to shoot the project on film to find myself outside of my comfort zone, to learn a little more about the origins of the trade, and because it fit so well with the project.