BILLINGS — A Billings photographer and his team have donated over $10,000 to the Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter and Rimrock Humane Society after photographing over 200 dogs to be featured in the book "Tails of Montana".
Rudi Marten, who has helped run Clark Marten Photography with his parents Clark and Rachel since 2008, took over the business four years ago and since decided to bring this project to life after years of seeing families bring their dogs in for portraits as valued members of the family.
He put together a team of photographers who he ensured were comfortable around animals and had to get a little creative.
“Sometimes the dogs wouldn’t pose unless their owner was standing there holding their leash, so we had to do some editing,” Marten explains. “We had to do research on different squeakers to get their attention and look at the camera.”
They advertised these sessions online and received an enormous response. Around 175 families paid $100 to participate, sometimes with multiple dogs, and were given a portrait as well as a copy of the book. Fifty dollars from each session was added to the donation fund.
Book sales also contributed to the total donation amount, and a portion of future book sales will also be donated. Marten has a few copies left, and if they all sell, he will be able to donate another $600.
This project was open to all Montana dog owners who share that special bond with their four-legged friend that makes them feel like a part of the family.
“The biggest thing was the response of dog owners who were (thankful for this,) because this is like one of (their) kids or even stories of people who couldn’t have children and these are their kids. And that was really fun to celebrate in a unique way,“ Marten reflects.
Susan Strand was able to participate in the project with her fur baby, Cedar. Cedar is a one-year-old Akita who is viewed as her “child of choice”. Cedar might have a lot of energy and use her mom as a chew toy, but she is still viewed as a source of happiness for Strand.
“I went through a really hard time last year through COVID with quite a few losses, so she has really helped bring light back into my life,” Strand says. “They’re all the best bits us humans wish we could be.”
Strand is hoping all of the books sell and people continue to support no-kill shelters because “all dogs deserve a home.”
The dogs featured in "Tails of Montana" include purebreds, shelter dogs, police K-9s and more. Each page features a portrait of the dog (or dogs) accompanied by a short biography. The title is a play on words expressing differing stories between the dogs photographed.
When asked about plans for volume 2, Marten said that depends on the level of demand for another project. They do have a few ideas in mind but would take it a different angle, he said.
If you are interested in purchasing a copy of "Tails of Montana," Click here.