Billings photographer features Montana dogs to raise money for nonprofits

BILLINGS — A Billings photographer and his team have donated more than $10,000 to the Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter and the Rimrock Humane Society after photographing more than 200 dogs to be featured in the ‘Tails of Montana’ book.

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 has since decided to bring the project to life after seeing families bringing their dogs for portraits as treasured family members.

He assembled a team of photographers who he made sure were comfortable with animals and needed 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 touch-ups,” Marten says. “We had to research different squeakers to get their attention and look at the camera.”

They advertised these sessions online and received a huge response. About 175 families paid $100 to participate, sometimes with multiple dogs, and received a portrait and 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 still has a few copies left, and if they all sell out, he can donate an additional $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 part of the family.

“The most important thing was the response from dog owners who were (grateful for this) because it’s like one of (their) children or even stories of people who couldn’t have children and they’re their kids. And it was really fun to celebrate in a unique way,” Marten recalls.

Susan Strand was able to participate in the project with her fur baby, Cedar. Cedar is a one-year-old Akita who is considered her “child of choice”. Cedar may have a lot of energy and uses her mother as a chew toy, but she is still seen as a source of happiness for Strand.

“I went through a really tough time last year with COVID with quite a bit of loss, so she really helped bring some light back into my life,” Strand says. “It’s all the best bits we humans wish we could be.”

Strand hopes all the books will sell and people will continue to support no-kill shelters because “all dogs deserve homes.”

The dogs featured in “Tails of Montana” include purebred dogs, shelter dogs, police K-9s and more. Each page presents a portrait of the dog (or dogs) accompanied by a short biography. The title is a play on words expressing different stories between the dogs photographed.

Asked about plans for Volume 2, Marten said it depends on the level of demand for another project. They have a few ideas in mind but would take them from a different angle, he said.

If you would like to purchase a copy of “Tails of Montana”, Click here.

About Nicole Harmon

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