People say never work with animals, well I’m all out of excuses this time around. There’s a first time for everything I suppose, remarkably the first actual animal to make it into the At Home With The Furries project. The others are not really animals I’m afraid, they’re to give you the dry version: anthropomorphised animal characters. That’s the furry version of dry i.e not really dull and academic at all.
All these shoots have happened organically, I go to a meeting and have a camera in hand. The furries love to be photographed, I ask them about their suits, I give them compliments, how could I not. The camera is a useful tool to have, it gives me an excuse to ask people questions.
At the last Christmas meeting, I met a poodle called Edward Fuzzypaws. We got on well, he had heard of my project. I slipped him a business card and a few days later received a lovely email from him asking if I’d be interested in photographing him for the project at his home in Richmond.
Well two weeks ago, I knocked on the door of a house at the end of a tree lined drive and was welcomed by the most beautiful looking dog I’ve seen in quite some time.
His name is Teddy and he is a two year old Labradoodle. He even made me a cup of tea, no wait that was the poodle that made me a stonking cup of builders!
Edward’s friend came along: Sticks The Fox to help and what a help he was, he became my first assistant and on-set photographer!
Two ideas per character tends to be the format of these shoots and I wanted these two to be a couple of greyhounds. As soon as I met Teddy, the family pet I knew he would play a major part in the success of these images. Did I have an animal wrangler though? Er no. Was Teddy a primadonna? I’ve never met a softer dog and to photograph him, well a dream!
I asked Edward about his character, he explained: “Edward Fuzzypaws is a fun character, all about bringing joy and smiles, never worrying or feeling stressed. He can screw up and it’s all just games – I guess he’s a personification of myself. My career means that I live to tell stories every day, whether through writing, painting, animating, and dressing as him is no different. He likes to play, quite simply, he lives to bring happiness. I designed him as a child at heart in the same way a dog can come bounding in and wag its tail without a care in the world”
“I found poodles are unusual in the furry scene, perhaps because of their style or character being a bit fancy, but they have always been dear to me. Prior to wanting to be an animator when I was a child, I wanted to be a poodle groomer. I met a standard poodle named Edward and it left an impression on me, hence the name (it’s also my late grandfather’s name). And I have always dressed up, even when I was young. Imagination is important to me, and expressing oneself as well. Edward isn’t escapism, he’s the opposite – he’s an outward demonstration of my passion for animals, art and entertainment.”
“I got into the furry scene kind of naturally. I hadn’t heard of it until I was much older, but I have been drawing my whole life, very often drawing anthropomorphised animals, especially where I work. Animation has so much of it, animals are everywhere in our world and in our childhood. When I found out there was a world of people dressing up and celebrating this, I was automatically hooked – I had gained an interest not just in costumes, but as I got older, an interest in how they are made. To me, it’s not about saying “why?” it’s about saying “why not?”
Sometimes an idea is all very well, research and preparation play an essential role in whether a photo is a success or a failure but sometimes, just sometimes regardless of an idea, the situation develops in a way you don’t expect and the picture just appears, as if by magic. Of course the prep work has led you to that place, but to let the image develop in front of you is as wonderful as the first time you drop a black and white print in the developing tray.
Edward brushing his dog’s coat down, a simple premise. As they sat together on the wooden decking bathed in dappled sunlight, Edward held Teddy’s head with one hand and Teddy caught his look. There was definitely something special there but it was only later, when editing the images my attention kept coming back to this one image. The project as a whole is about capturing something real, in admittedly unreal situations, but a moment of genuine emotion between furry friends, well that’s worth holding onto.
Thanks to: Edward Fuzzypaws, Sticks The Fox and of course, Teddy.