Not too long ago, US photojournalist and National Geographic contributor John Stanmeyer bought an old house in New England. Around the same time, he also got a great dane, a semi-rescue from Texas. “Her full name is Elfriede, but I call her Frida. Also, Elf, Elfie, the Big Elfie, Big Goofball, Big Love: she answers to all and to none of them.”
This L-shaped porch was the first room Stanmeyer fixed up. He wanted a sanctuary, a space of energy and meditation, so it has fairy lights, Yucatan-inspired wall colours and treasures from places he has visited.
Because he takes photographs all the time, with his phone as much as any other camera (the former being, to his mind, simply “a camera that makes calls”), and because great danes were bred to childlike levels of dependency, he shoots Frida constantly. Here she is, at 9.04 on a May morning, eating breakfast as she always does, her hind legs up on the chair.
“Danes are leaners,” he says. “Always politely in the way.” In all seven episodes of the Ask Me Anything video series Stanmeyer made for Instagram’s IGTV – in which he takes questions from amateur snappers around the world – he perches on the edge of an armchair, the big, loving great dane poking out from behind him, her giant paws on his knee, her head at his shoulder. “This is Frida’s house, and I am her guest,” he says.