TORONTO - Combine a photogenic Canadian canine, an iPhone camera and images on Instagram and the result is the creation of an online sensation.
The virtual phenomenon of Momo was sparked by an impromptu game of hide-and-seek involving the dog and his owner, Andrew Knapp.
On a fall day in 2012, Knapp took Momo to one of their favourite spots in the woods near his home in Sudbury, Ont. He picked up a stick to throw and Momo darted off to where he expected it to land. Knapp found Momo partly hidden behind a tree in the woods waiting for him. He decided to have Momo stay so that he could take a photo.
"I started sharing that (image) and it just started going viral and it took off."
It was the first of several hide-and-seek shots, and Knapp started using the hashtag "findmomo" while sharing images with around 600 friends on Instagram.
Knapp now has more than 200,000 followers on the photo-sharing service, where snapshots of his beloved border collie can amass online comments and "likes" numbering into the thousands.
In the new photography book "Find Momo" (Quirk Books), Knapp features more than 100 richly colourful images of Momo in lush landscapes, streetscapes and other unique backdrops both indoors and out. The book has readers try to locate the black-and-white dog hidden in plain sight somewhere within the frame.
"Find Momo" combines photos Knapp has previously used that ranked among his favourites, in addition to those taken of the five-year-old just for the book.
Snapshots of Momo were captured in Sudbury and other locales in Ontario, as well south of the border in New England, New York state, Pennsylvania and Vermont.
Knapp sold his home at the end of November, hitting the road with Momo in a yellow van and clocking more than 32,000 kilometres since December. In March, they started a book tour in Portland, Maine.
"I stop often, so the drives take a while, but (we've seen) very diverse landscapes and (are) meeting a lot of different people," Knapp said in a recent interview at Random House of Canada offices in Toronto.
"It's been so fantastic, and he's been so socialized. It's allowed me to attest that I think socializing a dog means you're going to have a really good dog in keeping him around people and other dogs will have them used to it. And so Momo is now even better with people than he was before, and he's just so personable."
Asked why so many people seem to have gravitated towards Momo online, Knapp said he thinks it's because many of them are living vicariously through their adventures.
"I do the same," said the 32-year-old. "A lot of people who I follow are people who I admire their lifestyle or their animal or their photography, and I watch it thinking that: 'Maybe I'll do something like that someday.'
"But there's something about Instagram that did it right. There's just these little packages, these little photos, it's always square, it's consistent and you just enjoy it. And it's so easy to consume."
Knapp said he's had to restrain himself from sharing new photos he's captured while out on the road as he works on a second book. As for other shutterbugs seeking tips on how to capture portraits of their pooch, Knapp said spending time with their dog is key.
"Sometimes (with) Momo you can kind of move him around with a ball or a toy and he will obsessively follow it or do whatever I say as long as I'm holding it," he said. "Sometimes it's a treat, and sometimes he does things for neither.
"I think it's having that empathy for your animal and being able to feel what they need right now and give them that; but while you're giving them that, you're training them. You're always training your dog.
"He doesn't always want to listen, either, so sometimes, I just have to hold the shutter button down for a while until the right one comes."
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