My Name is Brian Aghajani, and I began my photography journey in 1981 when I received a beautiful Nikon EM 35mm film camera and 50mm Nikkor lens as a Christmas gift. The exploration of the craft began with black-and-white film and portraiture. The switch to digital happened in 2005 when the Nikon D70s was introduced after Randy Tyson lent me hers for a day. In the early years, I replaced cameras almost yearly with the latest Nikon and Leica models as I chased the latest digital technology advancements hoping this would be the key to better photography. Eventually I came to the understanding that the camera was simply a tool and makes minimal difference. When people ask me which camera is best now, I tell them that developing ones skills and genuine passion for your subject matters far more than the camera when creating ones body of work. I began professional photography in 2011 with freelance fashion and portraiture.
My involvement in dog sports was accidental and a by-product of desperation. I acquired my first German Shepherd Dog named Otto in 1998. The dog proved to be much more than I could handle, and I cycled through several trainers before fate would have me visit a prospective trainer at a training field shared by Menlo Park Schutzhund Club. This is where, I would for the first time witness IGP teams performing obedience and protection work. One of those was teams were Terry Macias & Ike, with whom I am still friends to this day. It left a deep and lasting impression. I dove headlong into the sport with abandon, advancing Otto to a Schutzhund III title within two years. In the twenty years since, I have had the joy of raising three more working dogs (Dasti, Balco, and Desmo), and each has captured a piece of my heart. In all, I have competed in more than 30 IGP trials and have achieved one FH2 title. My dogs have been handler/owner/trained (HOT).
I began experimenting with mixing my love for photography with my love for working dogs in late 2012. About a year later, I believed I was ready to try my hand at a professional IGP event shoot. I booked the 2014 USCA Northwestern Region Championship. Because the equipment used for portraiture is designed for high resolution (read slow speed) and short lenses, it is poorly suited for the fast action and long distances involved in dog sport, so I had to rent equipment for this project. The rental cost was eye-opening $700, but it was necessary to do this correctly. The project was successful, and I received orders from almost every competitor, handily covering my rental costs. I felt brave and took the plunge, investing in a pro-grade action photography kit. Having spent my entire retirement fund on this fancy equipment, there was no turning back. I sat down and planned to travel to as many IGP championships as I could fit into my calendar so I could recover my investment. I never looked back and have been a traveling sport dog photographer ever since.
I met Jessica Vampola in Nevada at the 2016 USCA Southwestern IGP Region Championship. Jessica has been an IGP competitor for almost a decade and has titled two German Shepherd Dogs to IGP3. She is also an avid photographer, an IGP helper, and a motorsports enthusiast. With so many shared interests, a friendship instantly formed. One year later, our friendship became a romance, and we also became a photography team. We photographed our first World Championship together later that year in the Netherlands.
Jessica and I were married in January 2021. We now have two active German Shepherd IGP dogs, one retired IGP dog, two rescue dogs, a rescue horse, and a parrot. We have been official photographers for over 1,000 competitors at 50 Championships.
Somewhere along the way, our mission began to shift subtly. Initially, the goal was simple, to capture exciting and beautiful imagery and to share it with the dog sport community. I did so primarily through social media. The social following grew exponentially, culminating this year when we had over 1.2 million views during the 2023 FMBB World Championship in April. With the rise in viewership, we saw a dramatic increase in messages asking questions and requesting explanations about the content. It became clear that a photo of a dog biting a helper required some context, especially when a stick was involved. But it was also clear we had expanded the reach past the IGP insiders level and achieved visibility within the general population of dog owners. Questions followed similar themes, so in response, we added captions to explain the exercises and sometimes what was occurring in the image. The captions later expanded to occasional backstories of competitors, which provided a rare glimpse behind the curtain of the highest level of competition. We try to balance this with stories about grassroots-level enthusiasts getting their start in dog sports. Recently we believe it is essential to promote an understanding of the benefits working dogs provide communities and the extraordinary relationship forged between handlers and dogs through involvement in IGP.
In 2023 we were invited to be ambassadors for K9 and Sports. This is an international non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the public about the vital role working dogs play in society. They also strive to protect the survival of the working dog from misguided political actions of "animal welfare" advocates who have made overtures to ban both the use of working and training. We believe strongly in the K9 and Sports mission, are inspired by the work of the fellow ambassadors and are honored to be part of this movement.
Our photography is a journey, not a destination, one that we enjoy immensely. Jessica and I thank you for your interest and hope you find the same joy in viewing the images of this website as we had in their creation.
See you on the field!