Charming Portraits of Pet Owners in Laos

The Photo Blog
Dec. 18 2013 11:03 AM

Charming Portraits of Villagers in Laos With Their Pets


Ernest Goh

At the end of 2012, photographer Ernest Goh collaborated with the Canadian charitable organization, Veterinarians Without Borders (VWB) on a project to vaccinate dogs and cats (and one monkey) against rabies. Goh traveled with VWB to roughly two to three villages daily in rural Laos to document the process that invited pet owners to receive the rabies vaccination free of charge. After the vaccination process, Goh invited the owners to pose for a portrait with their pets. From the images, he created a series titled simply “Pet Owners of Laos.”

A photojournalist since his teenage years who eventually moved to commercial assignments, Goh began documenting animals for his project The Fish Book, which takes a close-up look at whimsical expressions made by fish and other aquarium-dwellers. Another book about roosters, Cocks, followed The Fish Book and was shot in a similar vibrant style. Goh also started The Animal Book Co. (TabCo) with a goal of creating a greater appreciation of animals through photography. He has volunteered his services with a number of nongovernmental organizations around the world, including VWB, to photograph their animal-welfare services.

“What draws me back to photograph animals again and again is how much I enjoy getting to know the animal's ‘personality,’ like having a cup of tea with a friend,” Goh wrote via email. “A photo of a smiling fish or a cat walking a chicken might just give a 10-year-old kid or an adult something to think about.”


Goh shot the project with artificial lighting, and since locations were constantly changing, he needed something that would be quick and easy to set up and take down. “We had to set up the studio under a villager’s house, in a classroom, in a sawmill, and under a tree,” Goh wrote. “Including the locations in the background of the images gave a hint of where or how the pet owners live.”


Ernest Goh


Ernest Goh


Ernest Goh

Goh said one constant he noticed has been the ways in which people in Laos seem to respect their animals. “It seems to come from years of close interaction with animals, something that is hard to come by in the city,” he wrote. In Laos, many of the villagers arrived with their pets in their arms, baskets, trolleys, and even carts.

Since pets are often allowed to roam free, leashes are rare. “It suddenly dawned on me that taking a pet like a dog for a walk is a rather cosmopolitan concept,” Goh wrote.

While many of the projects he works on are intended to better the lives of animals, Goh feels keeping a sense of humor is equally important to his work. “Making someone laugh is as important as giving someone a meal or medical attention. Laughter often brings hope and along with it the will to carry on,” he said.


Ernest Goh


Ernest Goh


Ernest Goh


Ernest Goh


Ernest Goh



Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 17 2014 11:48 PM Spanking Is Great for Sex Which is why it’s grotesque for parenting.
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?