Contest winner: Tobias Straub
®claryl: Was the winning motif a spontaneous picture?
TS: Yes and no; my friend and I are heavily involved in animal welfare. In August 2011, I was in Poland with the animal welfare group Hundehilfe Polen e. V. in order to visit various animal sanctuaries to collect dogs who have a new home or care facility waiting for them in Germany. In one of these animal sanctuaries where we wanted to stay the night and arrived late in the evening, Chiuchcia was sitting on a blanket in the reception area and welcomed us with great enthusiasm; I then noticed to my horror that she was paralyzed in her hind legs and could not walk. This poor young dog was so loving and friendly that you could not help but fall in love with her straight away. The next morning, the staff at the animal sanctuary strapped Chiuchcia into her little wheelchair, and she showed us all what she could do: She ran after the little cat, started digging and doing all the things that healthy young dogs do. She was so full of life and energy that you did not notice her tragic background (those who are interested can read about this on the homepage www.hundehilfe-polen.de, where you should click on "Archive August 2011"). I was so touched by her vitality, which she still retained despite her major handicap, that I wanted to record this moment forever and took a few photos of her. One of these is the winning photo.
®claryl: Is the motif your own dog?
TS: No, but we have five big dogs, four of which were rescued from animal sanctuaries. Little Chiuchcia is one of the countless poor dogs that are in the many animal sanctuaries and long for a new home.
®claryl: How did you come up with the idea of submitting this picture on the theme of "Help"?
TS: Chiuchcia had to undergo an operation to save her life, and a wheelchair like the one she has also costs a lot of money. She will have to undergo further operations; it is still not certain whether Chiuchcia will ever be able to walk like a normal dog. It is only thanks to the many kind people who were deeply touched by Chiuchcia's plight and who made donations that it has been possible to pay the vet costs so far and purchase her wheelchair. And this really is true "help" and therefore fitted perfectly with the theme of the photo competition!
®claryl: What motivated you to send in a picture for the competition?
TS: I am a regular visitor to the closer to life homepage, which I find very interesting, also thanks to the social commitment. I think it is great that the competition themes are so wide-ranging and cover very different areas. I always look at all the pictures and follow what is going on. When I saw that the current theme is "Help", I immediately recalled Chiuchcia and sent in the photo of her.
®claryl: What is it that makes photography special for you?
TS: The possibility of capturing life in all its diversity, its complete beauty (or sometimes also its harshness, as is the case with Chiuchcia) and letting time stand still for a moment - this is what makes photography so special for me. For me, photography means painting with light. Good photos, good photography is an art form; I am always delighted to see good photos of other people or if I manage to reflect on my photos exactly what I wanted them to express. With "Thank you!", the winning photo of Chiuchcia, I have evidently managed to do this.
®claryl: Which picture would you like to have framed?
TS: A picture of our husky Chester. It was taken shortly after we brought him back to our home from the animal sanctuary.