The one image challenge – one man’s quest to help homeless dogs

John Hwang is not a photographer by trade, but most assuredly, he has a gift for capturing amazing images. For years, Hwang dreamed of traveling abroad and helping the less fortunate. By the time that he completed college, debt from years of tuition made his dream of overseas travel impossible.

It did not take long for Hwang to realize that he didn’t need to travel overseas to make a difference…he figured out that he could help the less fortunate in his own community. Approximately three years ago, Hwang visited an animal shelter in southern California and interacted with a scruffy, three-legged, black poodle. Despite the poodle’s sad situation – locked away without friends or family – Hwang noted that she was “just so happy!”

After spending time with the dog, Hwang decided to capture some photos – after returning home, he uploaded the photos to social media and in short order, the poignant images and thoughtful words which accompanied them, struck a cord with friends and beyond. Ultimately the dog was adopted – in all likelihood because of the images that Hwang captured and shared.

The overwhelming social media response encouraged Hwang to continue visiting the shelter to help other dogs in need. When asked how he chooses a dog to photograph, Hwang admitted that it can be overwhelming – in fact, his first several visits to the shelter were so overwhelming that he was moved to tears.

Fortunately, Hwang is not the only person who visits shelters in Los Angeles County to take photos of the homeless animals. The knowledge that he is not alone has taken some of the burden off of Hwang and he is able to walk the aisles of kennels, waiting for the connection that he knows will come.

Hwang stated, “I walk through the shelter looking for a dog who seems to want to make a connection. Not necessarily the dog who wants a treat, but the dog who wants to interact.” After finding his canine subject, he spends some time interacting with the dog before pulling out his camera to capture the images which will accurately portray the heart and soul of his model.

Hwang considers himself to be a storyteller and his goal is to capture the images which will effectively portray the homeless dog’s story – he calls it the one image challenge.

Hwang’s challenge is undoubtedly a hit – the images that he shares via social media are shared far and wide, and he has even attracted the attention of big-name media, such as CNN.

Hwang is humble about his gift – he just wants to make a difference for the less fortunate. Offers to work professionally as a photographer might be flattering, but he prefers to continue capturing photos as a hobby, and telling his stories; helping those without a voice, one image at a time.

On August 6, the Baldwin Park Animal Shelter, the facility where Hwang captures his amazing images, is hosting a special adoption event, specific to pit bulls. The event is the first of its kind for a southern California shelter.

Hwang is hoping to spread the word about these misunderstood dogs – he stated:

According to the ASPCA about 1.4 million dogs are euthanized each year, and a vast majority of them are pit bulls. They have unfairly received a bad reputation for being aggressive which is due to bad owners.

Anyone that knows the breed well can tell you that pit bulls make the most loving and devoted companions. They are very affectionate and full of personality. I will never forget the time this sweet pit bull reached out her paw to me. Her gentle demeanor melted my heart. There are so many beautiful and loving pit bulls waiting at the shelter for a good home.

Read more about this adoption event at this link.

Penny Eims

Penny is a freelance writer who provided content to her National Dog News column at for 8 years. She is a current contributor to Fido Friendly Magazine, as well as a newly formed website, Pet Rescue Report. Penny is married and she has two rescued German shepherds and two kids.


  1. Louise Harrison says:

    I have just come across John Hwang’s photography and am completely blow away with his amazing talent and unbelievable compassion.

  2. elaine seamans says:

    john’s heart is as beautiful as his photography.

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