Julie McGuire on drawing international attention to the plight of street dogs – and winning a WPP award for doing so

This year, four British photographers won World Press Photo awards – Marcus Bleasdale, Nadav Kander, Abbie Trayler-Smith and Julie McGuire. It's fair to say that McGuire is the least familiar, but she's picked up one of photography's biggest accolades nonetheless – third prize in the Daily Life Singles category.

Diane Smyth — 17 February 2014

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Many dogs in Asia live on the streets, without government funding or charitable organisations to help them. But individuals such as retired German expat Barbara Janssen, who opened the 4PAWS centre, are dedicated to improving this situation. Penang, Malaysia.

Image © Julie McGuire

“I’m thrilled,” she tells BJP.

If Julie McGuire isn’t well known,  she is certainly well practised – long a keen amateur photographer, she has 20 years of experience in PR and marketing and decided that “the switch to visual storytelling was my next challenge”. She was spurred into action in 2005 after moving to India, when she saw the fate of street dogs there. “I was shocked to see the number of dogs on the streets (currently around 250,000 in Bangalore alone), the limited resources allocated to help them, and the attitude of some local people to their fate,” she says. “As I travelled around Asia, I realised that this was a much wider issue than I had imagined and wanted to help raise awareness the best way I could – through storytelling.”

She shot the WPP prize-winning story last summer, after travelling to Penang, Malaysia, to attend the inaugural Obscura Photography Festival and a workshop in the programme. “As with all my personal projects, I reached out to many dog-related organisations and individuals prior to travelling, but decided to shoot the 4PAWS story as I believe it not only represents the over-arching street dog issue in Malaysia but also offers a unique and compelling visual story in the way the dogs live in their hotel for dogs,” she explains. “It was important for me to gain exposure for this work to bring attention to the issues facing street dogs and those who try to help them.”
The story went on to appear in news and specialist media around the world, including The New York Times‘ prestigious Lens Blog, and McGuire has published a photobook version called Hounds of Hope with Blurb, some of the proceeds of which are going to the 4PAWS animal shelter. For the future, she hopes to establish an animal photography service, offering shoots of pet, sporting and working animals; she also hopes to continue to highlight animal welfare worldwide. With a World Press Photo prize in the bag, she’s already well on her way.