Professional photographer Albert Lewis has always been a dog-lover. So before visiting the 2012 Iditarod, he was highly skeptical of how the dogs were treated. “I’ve always been a little pessimistic about the race,” said Lewis. “I’ve always thought ‘Oh, it must be bad for the dogs.’”
Yet upon arriving at the starting line in Anchorage, Alaska, in March, his beliefs about the race were reversed. “I walked around with chills and almost a tear in my eye at how cool it was. These dogs couldn’t wait to run and they looked so happy.” Lewis soon decided to combine his love of dogs and photography in a forthcoming book entitled Born to Run.
In order to continue funding his project, Lewis set up a campaign on the website Kickstarter. While he’ll continue raising money until July 20, Lewis has already received over $22,000 in donations– far more than he expected.
Many past books on the Iditarod have focused on dog-sledding as a sport, but the main objective of Lewis’s work is to convey the beauty of the dogs. “I’m going up to these dogs and letting them lick me and they could sleep on my couch any night because I just love dogs.”
For the Anchorage, Alaska based photographer, the project has come with its own set of challenges. Lewis has spent most of his career doing fashion shoots, oftentimes for big companies such as Target, The North Face, and Nordstrom. When taking photos in the bitter Alaskan weather, he recounted, “I was freezing. My toes and fingers were so cold but the dogs could care less. The snow was dumping and it was about ten degrees out but they just couldn’t wait to take-off.”
2012 Iditarod winner Dallas Seavey (top right) gives a lift to his trusty companion. Aliy Zirkle (above) finished 2nd to Seavey in 2012, nearly becoming the first woman in two decades to win the famous race across Alaska.
Sven Haltmann, who trains and races dogs for the Iditarod, holds one of his best friends high. “They’re teammates,” says Lewis. “It’s a really intense bond.”
Each year, teams of 16 dogs prepare for the race across more than 1,000 miles of Alaskan tundra. “The dogs get going up to 25 miles per hour,” says Lewis. “They could knock you and I on our butts.”
Karen Ramstead, who works with the aspiring young Iditarod athletes, was mobbed when she asked them who wanted to be photographed with her.