See Momo – a cute, photogenic, 5-year-old border collie with a red bandanna.
Now see Momo disappear into picturesque scenes captured by his owner, Andrew Knapp. Both Knapp and Momo are stationed in Asheville for the month of January for a brief respite before a tour for Knapp’s upcoming photography book, starring his canine companion, Find Momo, out March 4.
“It started with me taking photos of Momo,” says Knapp, whose self-proclaimed “itchy feet” for traveling have taken the two from their native Sudbury in Ontario, Canada, through the United States by mode of a yellow Volkswagen Westfalia. “He’s just really cute and photogenic. I would go to throw a stick for him, and he would preemptively run off and try to figure out where I was going to throw it. He would go ‘hide’ behind a rock or tree – kind of by accident, and I would take a picture.”
But now it’s not just Knapp trying to find Momo hidden against weathered brick buildings and in cross-continent woodland scenes. It’s his over 127,000 – and exponentially growing – Instagram followers as well.
“I started posting those photos,” Knapp says. “And it started catching on. It kind of caught fire, and the rest is history I guess.”
Knapp’s book, Find Momo will be released March 4. Visit indiebound.org to find a local bookstore that stocks the book.
At first, Knapp began to use the hashtag “#wheresmomo,” which quickly morphed into “#findmomo.” Though Knapp no longer uses the hashtag himself, thousands of his followers comment “#foundmomo” once they have located the covert canine in the backdrop of Knapp’s photos.
“Originally my Momo concept came from my family,” Knapp explains about his book. “One of the reasons I did it was to create a book for my nieces and nephews on Christmas. I started to save a lot of those photos, and I gathered the 40 I liked the most, made a little Blurb book online – about a dozen of them – and gave them to my nieces and nephews, my brother and sister – some of my friends.
“And they really dug it,” he says. “It started taking off. I started getting calls from publishers, but none of the publishers really impressed me, so I went seeking a publisher myself.”
Eventually, Knapp found Quirk Books, a small publishing company based in Philadelphia. Though the company is small, Knapp says, they distribute on a large-scale.
“Their books are all really fun and quirky and different,” he says.
On Jan. 1, Knapp notified his followers of his arrival in Western North Carolina, with a post of Momo – in full head-tilt – next to the VW bus parked beside a gas pump, captioned, “Happily landed in Asheville where we’ll be hanging out for a month drinking beer and coffee! #newyearsheadtilt.” Since then, the pair have been spotted at numerous iconic Asheville locations, and Momo has been “found” in photos at The Wedge Brewing Company, Ben’s Tune-Up and on Patton Avenue.
So how did the pair wind up on an extended vacation in our mountain oasis? “A friend of mine said, ‘Hey you should check out Asheville,’” Knapp says, explaining this is his first visit to the town. “And then everyone I talked to about the idea said I’d have a great time here.
“I dig it,” he says, with a smile. “I’ve been shooting a little bit here and there, but the sites that I find are usually not the ones that everyone notices. … Asheville is very photogenic.”
And while Momo may be gaining his owner plenty of attention via social media—even landing the duo in a Sony Xperia commercial on MTV Canada, Knapp says having a semi-famous dog makes “no difference” to him.
“I mean it’s nice when someone recognizes him, and he gets a little extra love,” he continues. “It’s really nice that I get to meet people. It’s just another excuse to connect with people, and I like that about it.”
Before Momo, “I was pretty much an indoor guy, especially in winter,” Knapp adds. “Like, forests were dirty. But I knew I had to walk him a lot. And I knew there was a lot of work, but a lot of reward for that work. They’re really hard-to-train dogs. They’re so smart, but you have to spend a lot of time with them.
“But I liked that,” he says. “That concept that I had to work hard at it, and that there would be guaranteed reward. … It got me outside more. I realized winter can be fun too.”
Knapp and Momo in New York City. (Courtesy of Andrew Knapp)
To spot Momo during his Asheville adventure, follow Knapp on Instagram @andrewknapp, or check out GoFindMomo.com. Knapp’s book is now available for preorder, and he suggests “to keep it local” by searching for the book on indiebound.org to locate an independent bookstore with Find Momo in stock.
“I try to travel as much as I can,” Knapp says, mentioning his book tour will plant him back in North Carolina around March 17. “I sold my house a couple of months ago so that I could travel.”
And though his book is filled with vivid visual art, Knapp explains, “I’ve never really considered myself a photographer. I just take a lot of photos.”