For some time now, Sam Youkilis has cemented his place in many a heart worldwide for his breathtaking photography. Instagram is often his medium of choice where he documents his enviable travels from the skies of central Turkey to the white sands of New Mexico, and pretty much everywhere else in between. It’s hard to choose just one of the myriad places Sam has shot with his clear and matter-of-fact lens. We could have very easily picked up on his project for Zev Rovine Selections, a seemingly idyllic time for Sam spent at a beautiful vineyard in France. Or his time in Malaysia, capturing the local kopitiams (coffee shops) with whirring fans ahead and deliciously fragrant foods served on giant banana leaves.
There were so many different avenues we could have taken, but instead, we chose one that we knew would please our audiences far and wide. It is, of course, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Founded in 1877, the competition for the world’s most prime pups often takes place in Madison Square Garden. Sam ventured there for a commission for The New York Times, and the task at hand was a particularly exciting one for the in-demand photographer, as it was the first assignment someone asked him to make videos instead of stills. It’s a deliberate shift Sam has been working towards for some time now, telling It’s Nice That, “I’m making more videos now than ever before, and taking those videos a lot more seriously.”
He didn’t know much about the dog show before attending, explaining, “I hadn’t seen past coverage and I’m not so into dogs.” But with a little help from Netflix’s 7 Days Out episode focusing on the party of pooches, he quickly became familiarised with the annual establishment. “The atmosphere was weird and amazing,” Sam continues, “a lot of my work, especially the video stuff, relies on making people feel comfortable with my presence.” No mean feat, this can be a highly difficult task on Sam’s international encounters. It requires a certain amount of trust between the photographer and subject, something that can either be established through speaking the same language, having mutual friends or interests, or in some cases, simply spending enough time together. With the dog show however, “both the people and the dogs were eager to present themselves and be photographed,” says Sam.