The idea by accident was sparked during a meeting with her insurance broker, Angela. Clementine, Angela’s senior bulldog, lay in a bed with Angela’s hand nestled comfortably on the dog’s side. Clementine had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
According to Sobel Klonsky, “a light bulb went off and I knew that I wanted to document the relationship that people have with their senior dogs. Angela agreed to be photographed and we did so the very next day. The images were so poignant the idea became a passion project.”
Affectionately nicknamed Project Unconditional, Sobel Klonsky “asked around – friends, friends of friends of friends and organizations – for senior subjects, took photographs and at my husband’s suggestion, collected personal narratives which gave the project depth and dimension.”
The Vermont resident traversed the country for almost two years, “using Frequent Flyer miles and sleeping on lots of couches,” photographing the “fascinating” bonds of unconditional love between humans and their treasured senior dogs. As the process continued, Project Unconditional became the perfect idea for a book. National Geographic accepted Sobel Slonsky’s blind submission and the partnership developed into “a great team to work with.” Whittling down over 300 subjects became the book’s toughest endeavor.
Unconditional: Older Dogs, Deeper Love gave the award-winning photographer a greater appreciation for her senior canines, Charlie, a Golden Doodle and Sammy, a Golden Retriever.
“I never realized what the project would do in terms of my relationship with my own dogs,” she said. “I appreciate them now more than ever. Charlie and Sammy keep me honest and living in the moment. They’ve taught me how to stop and smell the roses and enjoy the free, simple things in life. We spend more quiet and quality together. They make me a better person. Because of the project, I feel honored and blessed to have them by my side. I really miss them when I go away.”
Unconditional: Older Dogs, Deeper Love also spotlights La Jolla resident and Warwick’s event guest of honor, Wesley Metcalf and his dog Mully. Metcalf is autistic and Mully is his assistance service dog.
“Wesley and Mully hold a very special place in my heart,” concluded Sobel Klonsky. “Wesley and Mully met through Tender Loving Canines, a San Diego-based organization that provides service and assistance dogs. Mully made a gigantic difference in Wesley’s life. Photographing both was just as important to Wesley as it was for me and that makes me feel really good about Project Unconditional.”
Future projects include a complimentary video series, Unconditional Stories filmed, by Kacey Klonsky, Jane’s daughter, who shadowed her mother for portions of the project.