Joe Shyllit sees the world a little differently. Where one person might see a stack of timber wrapped in twine, Shyllit sees the camouflage for his 10-year-old cockapoo Farfel’s morning excrement. His new hardcover photobook, Find the Poo: Without Worrying Where You Step, collects two dozen photographs of innocent-looking landscapes. Within each of them lurks a dog turd.
The idea was inspired by an autumn walk with Farfel. In 2015, after four decades in advertising, Shyllit closed his Toronto consultancy firm, Kuleba & Shyllit, following his partner Jerry Kuleba’s sudden passing. Shyllit decided to focus his creative efforts instead on illustration and design. One day, after losing track of Farfel’s poo, he photographed the area on his iPhone 7. Attempting to find the rogue feces in the photo, he says, was an amusing challenge.
Shyllit took more photos, concentrating on Farfel’s morning walks and not only because of the quality of the early sunlight. “The first stool in the morning is a firmer stool than later on in the day,” he says. He took a guerrilla approach to the photography: no staging and no lighting, just some strategic placements of Farfel. “I have been chased off a few lawns at five in the morning,” he says. “My excuse when someone would come out in a housecoat is ‘I’m admiring your garden. You have great flowers here.’”
When he showed the photos to friends, Shyllit was so encouraged by the response that he considered displaying his portraits for a wider audience. He produced a coffee-table book but found that, at $100 a copy, it wasn’t financially viable.
He experimented with a smaller size, ultimately producing a six-by-eight-inch board book. He sent copies to Ellen DeGeneres and Howard Stern but received no response. He fared better at Toronto-area Indigo Books & Music stores, which agreed to stock the title. From there, it was picked up by Firefly Books, which will publish a lightly edited edition this February.
The project, he finds, resonates with a variety of audiences. “Dog owners love it because they all identify with this,” he says. “People who like good natural photography like it, [as do] people who are into quizzes. Kids love it because kids love poo. It seems to be hitting a chord with a lot of people.”