Philip Bundman – A life ‘gone to the dogs’

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By Peg Lopata, Contributing Writer

Philip Bundman

Belmont – Do you want to make your life more fun?  That was the dilemma Philip Bundman, a former laser physicist, once faced. He realized that although being a scientist was very intellectually stimulating, he wasn’t having much fun.

“I recalled reading those essays by people who had just turned 106.  None of them said, ‘I wish I had been more serious’.  I wanted to have more fun before I died.  I thought I’d better get started,” said Bundman.  

The next career he chose?  Photographing dogs!

It began accidentally while taking a walk. 

He explained, “I stumbled on a dogpark.  It was a nice social setting. I began stopping by regularly and on a whim one day brought a camera.  I’d follow dogs around the dogpark, trying to make a nice picture or two, then email them to the owners.  After a few trips to the park, camera in hand, I found that I just could not stop doing it!”  

So Bundman learned about dogs, photography, and running a business. 

A gentle dog’s eyes say love

“I learned that there is a deep satisfaction upon watching a person smile broadly and maybe brush back a tear as they opened and saw for the first time, of all things, their new dog portrait.  Who would have thought?  Not the physicist, surely,” he said.

Over these past eight years, Bundman has developed the artist’s eye for his subject matter and learned that being a dog photographer is not just about dogs.  

“I see now that it’s never a dog in front of my camera.  It’s their dog and this distinction makes all the difference,” he said. “My favorite thing is to photograph dogs with their people and make the dog the star.”  

However, it’s not just about the art.  He feels what he does is also a service to others, especially for customers who ask him to photograph a dog who is dying.  Bundman feels honored when making these last portraits of a beloved dog. 

“I feel called to do my best work,” he said.  

The name of his company “Dog Eared Photography” explains his philosophy about photographing dogs. 

Cat’s intense gaze captured

“Because I want the photographs I make to mark a spot, like folding down the corner of a magazine page so you can return to that place,” he said. “The places I want to mark are temporal and emotional—a moment in the lives of dog and person and how they each felt, at that instant.  I hope people return to my photographs over and over again to return to what they feel for and treasure about their dog.”

Though Bundman is no longer working as a laser physicist, he’s still laser-like.  Seeing keenly is just who he is. 

He reflected, “I was a science-oriented kid, fascinated by glowing objects.”  

No wonder it’s a dog’s eyes that he considers most important in creating a good photo of a dog. 

He said, “If they are lit appropriately, dog’s eyes glow.” 

But Bundman is more than an artist, he’s still a scientist using his skills of intense observation, careful control of light, and perfectionism. 

“Photography is an outlet for the part of me that wants to get things just right.  Thanks to my physics training, I understand technical aspects of light and illumination in a deeper way than many photographers,” he said. “In high school and as an undergraduate, I designed scenery and lighting for our drama clubs. No surprise— the lighting was my favorite part.  That experience serves me well today.”  

However, according to Bundman, the creation of a great photograph is not only how you use lights and a camera: it also comes from a skillful use of editing tools. 

“Photoshop and many other editing tools are an essential component of making professional photographs. This is where the magic happens,” said Bundman.

From satellites in the night sky he gazed at as a child, to stage lighting, to many years of higher education, to a job at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Lexington, Mass., Bundman is now doing something that makes him truly happy.  He now also photographs cats, horses and landscapes.  But dogs?  They are pretty special for Bundman.

“I’m pretty much in love with whatever dog is in front of me at the moment. There is just something extra-cool about nearly every dog.  

See more photos and learn more about Bundman at www.DogEaredPhotography.com.  

Photos/Philip Bundman