Momo is a border collie who loves hide and seek inspired a unique photographic project that’s captured the imagination of thousands.
When they choose a dog, a lot of people look for one that’s going to be easy to take care of. But freelance photographer and designer Andrew Knapp wanted a challenge. So when he decided to bring a dog into his life, he chose a border collie, a breed renowned for its intelligence and need for exercise and mental stimulation.
“I’d been wanting to get a dog for a long time, but wanted to wait until I had the time,” Andrew says. “When I was ready, I knew it would be a border collie. I heard they were hard work, and I liked the idea of working hard with your dog.”
Andrew, who lives in northern Ontario, Canada, located a reputable breeder, and hit it off with his new four-legged friend as soon as they met. “The moment I touched him, he flopped on his back and I rubbed his belly. There was no way I was leaving without that squirmy little guy!”
Andrew named his new friend Momo, and devoted himself to training, exercising and caring for him. “I find exercise and attention to be the best ways of keeping a working dog happy and healthy, so I spend a lot of time with Momo. I walk and run him a lot, and I think this keeps his immune system boosted, his coat looking shinier and cleaner, and his satisfaction level high. Like most border collies, Momo is very intense, and very active. He can go from sleeping to chasing a ball in a split second.”
But Momo has a special trait that sets him apart from most other dogs. He likes playing hide and seek. “He would perch himself behind rocks and tree stumps in the woods, waiting for me to throw a stick for him,” explains Andrew. In time, the border collie’s cute habit inspired a unique idea in the photographer’s mind – a visual project called “Find Momo”. It’s a growing collection of photos taken in a wide variety of different settings, from cities and playgrounds to landscapes and street-scapes, store interiors and public buildings. What ties all the images together is that Momo is hiding somewhere in each and every one, perhaps peering over a rock, peeking through a window, perched on a wall or concealed behind a lamppost, under a shelf, or in tall grass.
“I often tell people it was Momo’s idea, because it kind of was,” Andrew says. “He has been very well trained, so if he happened to be in the perfect spot, I would just say ‘stay’ and take a photo. This started happening more and more in different settings, rural and urban, indoors and out.”
Andrew self-published a book of his photos for his nieces and nephews, not expecting the project to attract the attention of anyone much beyond his family and friends. But when he started posting his photos to Instagram, he found that people loved them.
“It started with friends sharing with friends,” Andrew says. “A friend or two had blogs, and shared the photos there. I think the whole thing just snowballed from there. Bigger blogs were noticing, then news channels/websites started picking the project up, and before I knew it I was on the phone with my publisher signing a book contract.”
Andrew’s first book, Find Momo, was published last year by Quirk Books and features nearly 100 artistic and intriguing color photos in which to search for Momo. The second book, Find Momo Coast to Coast, just came off the press a few months ago and includes dozens more photos taken by Andrew while on a road trip across the US and Canada with his dog. In some of the photos, it’s relatively easy to find Momo; in others, you really have to look hard in order to spot him. If you can’t find him no matter how much you search, the answers to his location in each image are in the backs of both books.
Although Andrew didn’t expect the “Find Momo” project to take off the way it has, he admits it really isn’t surprising. “It just makes a lot of sense – nice photos with a cute dog hidden in them,” he muses. The interactive nature of the photos also holds a lot of appeal. “People are invited to explore the settings. Normally, you’d glance over a photo quickly, but this is a way to get people to engage with the environments I present to them. I’ve always been an advocate of exploring off the beaten path, taking the road less traveled, and to me, that’s the message these books deliver.”
Along with the books, you can also look for Momo online – on Instagram, Facebook, and the gofindmomo.com website. “From my perspective, the most important thing is to just keep on doing it – people really dig consistency,” says Andrew. “It’s loads of fun. I walk Momo a few times a day and get a few new shots in. My time is divided between the ‘Find Momo’ project and the local community arts initiative.” It’s clear that Andrew has a special bond with his dog – and that the success of the “Find Momo” project hinges on the close collaboration and communication the two share. In fact, it’s mainly because Andrew spends so much quality time training and walking his dog that they are able to work so well together and produce the photos they do. But Andrew stresses it goes beyond even that. “I think any good idea is really just a result of observing the things that are happening around us,” he says. “If this project offers anything other than a cute dog and a fun game, let it be that it might awaken your own innate desire to explore.”