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Maciejewski captures the best times with our best friends

Zoom image: For the last four years, photographer Steven Maciejewski has focused on dog portrait photography, and especially likes capturing dogs in action. For the last four years, photographer Steven Maciejewski has focused on dog portrait photography, and especially likes capturing dogs in action. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

For the last four years, photographer Steven Maciejewski has focused on dog portrait photography, and especially likes capturing dogs in action.

Photos and text by MEREDITH FORREST KULWICKI

Published August 27, 2021

Editor's note: Summer Hours is a photo series focusing on UB staff members who use the longer days to pursue interesting hobbies, causes and other endeavors outside of their day jobs.

Let’s set the scene: It’s a warm, slightly muggy, late July evening. The sun is starting to sneak under the horizon, giving a yellow-orange glow to the landscape. Scenes of lavender come and go at Kin Loch Farmstead in Cambria. Looking out across the field, you notice just the tip of two white ears. Those ears belong to Arya, a 2-year-old white shepherd. She’s in the middle of a photo shoot.

About 20 yards away, lying flat on his stomach, is Steven Maciejewski, assistant athletic director for development with the Division of Athletics, and owner of Essjay Photo. At his hip is Tommy Robertson, Arya’s owner, who urges her to sit still a moment before encouraging her to charge the camera at Maciejewski’s signal.

Zoom image: Maciejewski says he especially likes to photograph his clients in summer because of the longer goldern hour of great light. Maciejewski says he especially likes to photograph his clients in summer because of the longer goldern hour of great light. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Maciejewski says he especially likes to photograph his clients in summer because of the longer goldern hour of great light.

Zoom image: Photography takes patience and Maciejewski waits for a moment while the dogs are repositioned. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki Photography takes patience and Maciejewski waits for a moment while the dogs are repositioned. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki
Zoom image: Maciejewski reviews an image with Alex Defoucault, as they both keep an eye out for details that can be adjusted. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki Maciejewski reviews an image with Alex Defoucault, as they both keep an eye out for details that can be adjusted. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki
Zoom image: Maciejewski says he gets a feel for a dog’s personality within the first few minutes of a shoot and that helps direct what he will try to capture. Dog owners Tommy and Julie Robertson stay nearby to help too. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki Maciejewski says he gets a feel for a dog’s personality within the first few minutes of a shoot and that helps direct what he will try to capture. Dog owners Tommy and Julie Robertson stay nearby to help too. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

“My whole goal in taking photos is to find character and connection,” Maciejewski says. “Dogs are incredibly honest creatures. They give you everything they’ve got, so I can typically find that special something within the first few minutes of meeting them. When I can capture that, it’s the best feeling.”

Over the past four years, Maciejewski has been perfecting his photography skills to become one of the area’s most sought-after canine portrait photographers. He started this journey with his own pup, Hugo, and a fairly basic, consumer-level camera. He says he outgrew the camera within a year, as his imagination pushed him to do more.

Zoom image: The orange balls are used to keep the dog’s attention during the shoot and to help the dogs hold the poses Maciejewski needs. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki The orange balls are used to keep the dog’s attention during the shoot and to help the dogs hold the poses Maciejewski needs. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki
Zoom image: Kin Loch Farmstead in Cambria, NY was the backdrop for this shoot. The White Shepherds in this photo shoot are 3-year-old Hagar (left) and Arya, 2-years-old. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki Kin Loch Farmstead in Cambria, NY was the backdrop for this shoot. The White Shepherds in this photo shoot are 3-year-old Hagar (left) and Arya, 2-years-old. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki
Zoom image: It takes a team to get everyone looking at the camera, especially when there is a baby. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki It takes a team to get everyone looking at the camera, especially when there is a baby. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki
Zoom image: Although Maciejewski’s work focuses on dogs, often times other members of the family get into the photos too. Although Maciejewski’s work focuses on dogs, often times other members of the family get into the photos too. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Although Maciejewski’s work focuses on dogs, often times other members of the family get into the photos too.

“The opportunity to be able to create something for somebody that they’re so proud of and they just genuinely love is, it’s more than a hobby for me; it’s a passion,” Maciejewski explains.

His typical clients are working line dogs, pups that range from German shepherds to cattle dogs, and are generally highly trained. His portrait business was built through referrals, including through his friendship with a local dog trainer — and his first client — Alex Defoucault with Canine Academy.

“I see really cool things out of his candid shots,” Defoucault says. “The relationship that he captures between people and their dogs … those are some of my favorite interaction shots. He is really good at capturing that kind of stuff.” 

Zoom image: Owner Tommy Roberston calls Arya, a 2-year-old White Shepherd toward the camera as Maciejewski hits the shutter. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki Owner Tommy Roberston calls Arya, a 2-year-old White Shepherd toward the camera as Maciejewski hits the shutter. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki
Zoom image: Maciejewski shares an image on the back of the camera with dog owner Tommy Roberston (center) and dog trainer, Alex Defoucault, with Canine Academy. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki Maciejewski shares an image on the back of the camera with dog owner Tommy Roberston (center) and dog trainer, Alex Defoucault, with Canine Academy. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki
Zoom image: Hagar waits for the signal to run in a large field at Kin Loch Farmstead in Cambria, NY. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki Hagar waits for the signal to run in a large field at Kin Loch Farmstead in Cambria, NY. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki
Zoom image: A sample from this photoshoot: an edited image of Arya. To see more of his work, visit Maciejewski's website. Photo courtesy of Steven Maciejewski A sample from this photoshoot: an edited image of Arya. To see more of his work, visit Maciejewski's website. Photo courtesy of Steven Maciejewski

A sample from this photoshoot: an edited image of Arya. To see more of his work, visit Maciejewski's website. Photo courtesy of Steven Maciejewski

The photo shoot is full of team work. Although Maciejewski hits the shutter, he needs the owner to help keep the dog posed. Defoucault offers a second eye to make sure the dogs are looking their best. Erin, Maciejewski’s wife, is also on site, keeping an eye on details and offering location suggestions. Together, they keep a fun, friendly banter going throughout the nearly two-hour shoot. Maciejewski offers peeks of the images on the back of his camera to collective excitement.

“I’ve had dogs my whole life. They’re a gift and only here with us for a short time,” Maciejewski says. “I take a personal interest in creating photos that an owner can look back on and remember the best times with their best friend.” 

Steven Maciejewski has worked at UB since 2016. He is a former UB athlete in the track and field program. He holds both a BA and an EdM in higher education from UB.