Author Archives: Mel Cousipetcos and Campbell Boyer
About Mel Cousipetcos and Campbell Boyer
One from the suburbs, one from a farm, they came together in Melbourne, and went to London. Two designers who love dogs. So much so, that during the five hour drive from the burbs to the farm, Mel 'Doodle Buddied' portraits of themselves and their respective dogs —Governor and Jessdog— to amuse Campbell. Ridiculously cool Japanese stuff comes in a close second after dogs.
Ask yourself “What makes a great fashion blog?”. You’ll inevitably whittle it down to (at least) these three fundamentals. One) A consistently excellent sense of personal style. Two) A unique approach that breeds some of the smartest fashion advice ever. Three) A dog-model. Based in NYC, a three year old Shibuya Inu, a.k.a. Menswear Dog, and his clever assistants (or owners) tick all the boxes. We predict the tables will soon turn and Ryan Gosling will be the one taking pointers from this guy.
Who’s behind Menswear Dog (MWD)?
We are a married creative-duo. Dave Fung,
and Yena Kim.
How/when did MWD get into wearing people-clothes?
His tumblr is about a month old, so he’s been wearing men’s clothes for about that long. He’s been curating since he was a little pup though.
Where does he look to for inspiration?
He looks for inspiration from everywhere—the runways, books, magazines…we’ll catch him googling “Ryan Gosling” from time to time.
He looks super cool and calm in all his pics…
We think he‘s a natural. As you can see from the pictures, he knows how to work what he‘s got to make the outfits come to life. Treats and peanut butter don‘t hurt either.
Where does MWD stand on collars—
popped or not?
No shirt collar popping, please.
MWD is sporting a lot of winter fashion right now. Will he be shooting any summer looks soon (for all the men in the southern hemisphere)?
Yes, he’s excited for the weather to change so he can showcase more street wear. There’s a lot more to come.
MWD’s Best Pick List Best menswear look?
As far as I’m concerned, the best menswear looks come from looking backwards. It’s about curating a wardrobe with classic, timeless pieces that are and always will be fashionable. Take a few pointers from young Elvis and Steve McQueen. Timeless swagger.
Best piece of fashion advice (given and/or received)?
“Do You”. Style is about wearing things with confidence. If it doesn’t make you feel good, don’t wear it.
Best fashion resource (apart from MWD)?
There’s a great vintage menswear book that I refer back to for inspiration. It’s called Vintage Menswear: A collection from the Vintage Showroom by Sims, Luckett and Gunn.
All images courtesy of Menswear Dog
Check some more of these stylish looks here.
Artist Rona Green’s work is completely and uniquely characterful in every sense of the word, and not just because it features a range of ‘characters’ dreamed up out of Green’s past and present experiences, influences and relationships. Her gang of part-human/part-animal figures each bring a personal story to the table, often told through an adornment of bad-ass tatts. I can only describe them as kind of a bunch of weirdo, slightly dangerous mongrels who are (somehow) completely endearing at the same time. As we pry into the mind from which they’re all born, Green confesses that “the most important thing about my creative practice is that it amuses me, so I make pictures I enjoy.”
Talk us through the process of how one of your characters is realised. Pretty much all of the characters are an amalgamation of observation and imagination. To generate characters my preferred methodology is gathering imagery, collecting words, joking around, collaging, constructing personalities, manipulating esoteric information, being playful.
What inspired this animal-human hybrid your characters take on?
The symbolic, highly stylised man-beast gods of Egyptian painting and sculpture resonated with me as a child and their powerful effect still lingers.
You work across a range of mediums — drawings, prints, paintings and even digital. What determines the medium used to realise any one of your ideas? Do you prefer to work in one medium in particular?
Over time I have experimented with many techniques to produce different types of work. Challenging myself technically keeps things interesting. Being an artist is all about being curious, and exploring various mediums is part of this. Most recently I have concentrated on making hand coloured linocut prints and painting with acrylic on canvas. But everything stems from drawing.
Are you possibly adorned with as many tattoos as your characters?
Some of the characters in my artworks have heaps more tattoos than me. Many of the people around when I was a kid had tatts and I’ve always liked them. My use of the tattoo as a motif is fired by its capacity to evoke a story. Tattoos can convey information about origin, affiliation, status and proclivities. They also has the ability to incite strong reactions from the viewer.
What is your earliest creative memory?
Entering a bike decorating competition in primary school, which incidentally I won (largely due to my mum’s help threading streamers through the spokes).
What other creative fields/artists inspire you?
MMA fighters – some of those guys are true artistes, not to mention aesthetically pleasing. A few favourite visual artists are Jean Dubuffet, Francis Bacon and Ed Paschke.
What would you like people to take away from your work?
One could go on and on about what the work does or doesn’t say, however if the art can’t speak for itself then it has failed to fulfil one of its primary purposes. Art is a collaboration between the creator and the viewer; the work can’t speak if nobody is there to hear, and what they take away is essentially up to them.
All artwork (linocut, ink and watercolour) by Rona Green ronagreen.com
If you ask ‘What is it about dogs?’ to an artist who’s work revolves around them, the last response you might expect is “hated dogs…” followed by the tale of a dog attack at just two years old. It all makes a little more sense to account for Rob Clarke’s current affinity for dogs when he reveals that 10 years ago he “got a little long haired Jack Russell, went to puppy club and fell in love with dogs in general.”
Clarke originally started with birds, doing large groups for walls of show flats which he says “looked great on mass but [then I] migrated to dogs… I do still paint birds but dogs have taken over.”
Taken over is right. After talking with a friend, Clarke thought it would be a great idea to do an A-Z series of dogs – a set of prints of mostly British breeds. He sketches, working from numerous photos or found images (no, dogs won’t stay still for a sitting). “The sketches are very spontaneous, quick and I do many drawings until I get one I love.” His favourite letter? ‘X’ for Xolo, a kind of kooky, hairless breed native to Mexico.
This initial series spawned a New York edition and mono-print series soon to be exhibited at the Rebecca Hossak gallery in London. “The A-Z of New York was the smaller dog collective. As the apartments are smaller, the dogs got smaller, so I was doing French bulldogs, Boston terriers, Chihuahua’s for the wonderful American market… they love their dogs.” “The new show is a mono printed version of some new dogs of the A-Z family with smooth texture, natural colour washes and some bright busy colour. The black and white A-Z I found to be a classic rendition of dog breeds, the colour was to make it more present” he adds.
Aside from these series, Clarke mostly does commissions (specially with acrylics on canvas and pencil), having just done Alan Carr’s two red setters, Bev and Joyce, commissions for Meatloaf and also Fergie’s (of Black Eyed Peas fame) dachshund who died a while back. “Having your dog painted makes people incredibly happy… and I love that” he says.
Does Clarke have a dog of his own, we ask? “Burt and Mabel with my ex-girlfriend. I get to see them when I’m in London…” With Clarke travelling too much to have his own, we are glad to hear the sole custody allows visitation rights.
SS Kennels are a group of ‘Bully’ breeders located in Compton, Los Angeles (cue N.W.A). Their business ranges from breeding and selling the dogs to showing them at Bully specific events. Ollie Grove and Will Robson-Scott (photographers of the previously featured In Dogs We Trust series) spent some time down there shooting the breeders and their dogs (with cameras). Ollie fills us in on the Compton Bully breeding scene: how they got there, who they met, what they did.
On using your connections
We had spent time with and shot who is the co-owner of SA kennels, also from Los Angeles. Dietrich was a truly dog driven man who bred, schooled and attack trained Bully breeds. Basketball players, American footballers and rappers would bring their dogs to Dietrich who would then train them to protect their owner if a situation ever arose. After shooting Dietrich and his noble hound/trained killer, he insisted that we pay a visit to Double SS kennels and meet his friends there.
On frontin’ Based in Compton, I said we’d love to go, lying through my teeth; the thought of two sunburned white lads dropping in to Compton with our clunky camera gear made me feel slightly uneasy. Having been bought up on films like Menace 2 Society and Boyz n’ the Hood, I felt like I’d already been to Compton, and I didn’t feel like going back. Will on the other hand was decided from the get-go. He had no qualms about it and only convinced me to go after calling me pathetic for an entire day. Without his fool-hardy Irish gusto I would have never gone.
On the dogs The dogs that Double SS kennels were breeding looked like nothing I’ve ever seen. They did not have the tall athletic looking stature of your standard American Pitbull but instead a squat, barrel-like physique with wide heads that looked capable of destroying anything. Despite the ferocious appearance, the dogs were friendly and sociable towards us, with similar temperaments of a Staffordshire bull terrier – waggy tailed and keen for some attention. I presume that most of the dogs fiery characteristics would mostly come out in the presence of an intruder to the property or towards other dogs.
On the Boyz The owners themselves, and their friends, were gentlemen. Their dress code and the language they spoke was true to the films and music videos we’ve all seen before, but they treated us as welcome guests. They spoke openly of the situation of the area, their connections and their dogs association to the negative sides of the life in Compton; but breeding the dogs was their way of avoiding these negative aspects it seemed. It is a focus, a drive, and a way to make them good money.
These people genuinely love the dogs. As a dog lover, I was nervous that these guys might be breeding dogs to fight and nothing more than a desire to breed a tough fighter was their only aim. But I was glad to hear these breeders had no desire to fight their dogs and actively discouraged that sort of behaviour. Despite the unorthodox methods of keeping a dog (from an Englihman’s point of view) they loved their dogs just as much as anyone.
Of course when an owner stands with their tough-looking dog they will play the part and look tough themselves, but you can’t always judge a person by a picture. Show-boating is all part of the package. The whole Bully breeding thing is very similar to English lads who like fixing up their cars in a boy racer style, taking it to a meet up point and showing it off. These guys would work through generations of dogs to breed their perfect looking bully for others to admire and then go to that kennel to buy one themselves.
On good hospitality It was a Sunday when we went down there and so the breeders had a lot of their friends round. They asked us to join them in smoking some of their herbal remedies and I tried to refrain, knowing that a few puffs could lead me into a state of confusion and paranoia deep in the heart of Compton. They frankly insisted that we enjoy a round of puff puff pass with an excessive amount of blunts on the go; when one was passed, another would fall into mine or Will’s hand until the comedy-sized blunts were finished. After fifteen minutes I was red eyed, dry mouthed and ferociously paranoid. The fears in my mind of my throat being slit in exchange for my rangefinder were gladly never to manifest themselves in reality.
On dress code The clothing is just an American thing; if you have a hobby, you wear a t-shirt saying so. The tattoos I believe just come from the fact that these guys have tattoos, like a lot of people in Compton, be it gang tattoos or whatever. These guys choose their kennel to emblazon on their body and to me it seemed more positive than a gang reference.
On the project In Dogs We Trust It is always nice to see the pride in an owner or the connection between the two. I think it also benefits an image when the situation or the relationship surprises you – an owner and dog that don’t fit the stereotype. But it is also great when the owner and dog fit the stereotype so perfectly. It would have been easy to start a project and just photograph middle aged women in wellies walking a Labrador across Hampstead Heath, but everyone knows that exists and they can see it any time, just by going to the heath! It is nicer to present a slice of man and dogs life that not everyone can see, thus the reason we generally wanted to photograph the people and their dogs in or around their home.
On working with Will The project started as a collaboration and worked well as one. The very first shoot we did for it, I organised and Will shot it. From then on, if we went together on a shoot, we’d take it in turns to shoot it how we wanted, or leave it to the other one of us who had clearly got the shot. After a while though, we’d just end up finding a subject we wanted to shoot and then going off on our own to do it. I enjoyed working with Will. It’s always nice to work with your friends in any capacity, but in a creative industry, it’s nice to know there is an extra pair of eyes that you respect and trust working with you.
And finally, if we were dogs… Will would be an irritable, wire haired, sleepy, small, occasionally fat, always drunk mongrel. I would be a pathetic, whining, nervous, negative but occasionally happy lurcher.
Photography by Ollie Grove and Will Robson-Scott
To see more of Ollie work, visit his site
Erik Kessels is one half of KesselsKramer Publishing. He rescues orphan photo albums, is interested in rookie errors and wants to unearth and share untold stories. Thankfully, he had the good sense to let his hobby for collecting images spill over into his professional work so we all could experience his unique take on the world. Whether the subject matter revolves around dogs, animals, people or all of the above, there is always an unlikely discovery waiting for you at the end. We talk to Erik about the In almost every picture series and his love of amateur photography.
How did the idea for publishing the ‘In almost every picture’ series come about?
About ten years ago at a flea market in Barcelona, I found 400 slides which were very beautifully preserved and it started to rain on them so I just bought them. I didn’t really look at them apart from the fact that I saw that were 6×6 inch images and it was shame to let them get rained on. When I took them home I found that about 90% of these images had a woman standing in them. In the end it was about 12-13 years of a husband documenting his wife during their holidays. It took maybe a few years but then I made a book out of it. And that was also very nice to look at because, in the beginning of those years she is quite big in the frame, but then when you flick through the book she becomes smaller and smaller in the frame and the husband has more an eye for the surroundings. As the years pass, the wife disappears more and more into the background.
That’s interesting, that a story over time is revealed even though all the pictures in the book are of the exact same subject. Yeah, that’s what I’m looking for – a certain repetition in the images, but apart from that I’m looking for a special story which is mostly created over the years without people knowing it. So its mostly amateurs that take those pictures, and they don’t know in the end what kind of treasure they have or what kind of funny or bizarre story they’re telling.
For the second book, I found about 700 images by a taxi driver. He had a client who he regularly drove for three or four-day trips though Austria, Germany and Switzerland. On those trips the driver always stepped out of his car and photographed his Mercedes taxi all around those countries. It was very strange because in all 700 images the woman stayed in the car. She was always in the passenger seat, so its a very strange series of photographs of a taxi either with the door open or not. In the end I found out that the woman was handicapped, so in the morning he would pick her up in the car and drive her around, and in a way he made her holiday pictures. The only thing was that the Mercedes was always around her. So there’s always those kind of stories hidden in the pictures.
How did you find out about who took the photos and their stories?
For instance when I did the first book with the Spanish woman, I had an exhibition and did a poster and invitation with her image on it, saying ‘if you recognise this woman can you please come to the gallery’. About two weeks later an older woman came to the gallery and told me that she knew the woman, who died about 15 years ago and her husband a few years later. They never had children so that’s why these images ended up in a market, which is often the case. The families who take these photos don’t have children or their children live far away so the album gets lost and ends up at a flea market or on ebay. So they are kind of orphan albums.
What do you like so much about amateur photography? Well I’m an art director and designer working with imagery every day, editing images and working a lot with photographers. In most cases in advertising images, everything is perfect. But for me its also inspiring how I can change things a bit. It sometimes also quite nice that somebody has his eyes closed in an advertising photograph, because in the end that will be more recognisable. I’m very interested in the mistakes and errors that amateurs make.
Given there are two ‘dog books’ in the series, do you have a particular interest in dogs? Or animals in general, because there is also the book with the rabbit, the piglet, the deer…? No, not really, that’s kind of a coincidence. The only living subjects are people and animals. And people like to photograph animals as well. In family albums the funny thing is that people are often the least portrayed in family albums. When they go on holiday they take numerous photographs of boring mountains or waterfalls or motor homes. Those kind of photos are in a way very boring. When they have a pet they do that as well. The book with the dalmatian dog, it was an album which the woman totally dedicated to that dalmatian for 15 years. The edit is chronological. There’s not so much a story here but in the middle of the book you see that the woman tried a roll of black and white film. So she thought ‘OK, I have a black and white dog, so I’ll try a little bit of artistic photography and take black and white photos’ which is kind of funny. That was also a specific section in the album as well.
So that was a very deliberate set of images as opposed to people who don’t realise they’re making a collection?
Yeah, and it was also a German album. The German and the Swiss albums are so neatly and precisely put down, its a cliché but its true. If you see South American albums, its chaos. In the other book with the black dog, they were again in an album, and you see that the family is trying to solve one of the big mysteries of photography — how to shoot a black dog. [It’s worth nothing here that in most of the shots the dog looks like a dense black blob]. They failed all their life in a way, until the image on the last page where they totally over exposed the shot.
Have you ever created your own ‘In almost every picture series’ and what would the subject be?
In a way I do that a little bit already. We have children and when they were young they had a weakness where they’d get lot of bloody noses, like 2-3 times week, and I always photographed them like that, either with a black eye or bloody nose or when they were crying. So I photograph these kind of misfortunate moments in a family, which I found out later that I had a lot of them because I always took a Polaroid of those moments. When I showed them to people they were very confronting, because immediately people would think ‘child abuse’, but that makes it also very interesting because it reveals how programmed we are. All family photos are really a form of propaganda. If you photograph your family they’re always smiling, happy, its beautiful with a bright blue sky. So there’s never an off moment. So that is more my own subject for my own family album.
Images collected and edited by Erik Kessels
To see the complete catalogue of titles published, click here
In this in-depth conversation with photographer Jo Longhurst, we talk about what perfection means, how being pulled in multiple directions allowed her to find new rewarding ground and the elusive leveled playing field.
You’ve spoken about your work focusing on ‘the construction of the human identity through the shaping of the figure of the dog’. Can you explain how has this idea has evolved in its expression over time and in different projects. The Refusal was made over 6 – 7 years. Initially I was interested in the relationship between man and dog and what this might say about us as humans. I started out making clinical photographic studies to try to understand the historical conventions of dog breeding, and how a dog’s form and character evolved as its working relationship to us changed. As my project developed I got sidetracked into exploring more emotional aspects of the relationship between human and dog. Although encouraged to choose between these two very different directions, I felt the real work was happening somewhere in the gap between the two.
What inspired your interest in documenting ‘perfection’?
It’s hard to know. It crept up on me. As I got to know some of the breeders and their dogs, I became fascinated by their obsessive quest to breed a ‘perfect dog’. I wondered how such an elusive creature might be recognized. I quickly learned that Whippet perfection is described in detail in the Kennel Club of Great Britain’s ‘Breed Standard’, a benchmark against which all show dogs are judged. I’m now working with elite gymnasts. There’s definitely something about performing and being judged within strict criteria that interests me.
Why dogs? And why the Whippet of all breeds?
At the time I was interested in human Eugenics and the burgeoning area of Genomics, wondering where these cutting edge scientific developments might lead us. Discussions around this highly emotive area are often highjacked by heated debate on issues such as right to life and the ethics of experimentation. I (mistakenly) thought by photographing dogs in Pedigree programmes – where Eugenic breeding practices have been overtly practiced and discussed for centuries – I could circumvent some of these contentious issues, which might distract the viewer from engaging with what really interested me.
I tend to work with subjects I have some emotional knowledge of. I had just acquired two Whippet puppies, and my visits to the Newmarket horse studs where they were bred had opened my eyes to the strange, but compelling world of the show dog.
We’ve seen studies of the relationship between dog and owner before and witnessed the ways in which dogs communicate something about their owner. They become a symbol of status, another way to project personal image. In extreme cases dog and owner even end up looking alike. But when you remove the owner from the subject of the photograph (specifically speaking to The Refusal Part I and Twelve dogs Twelve Bitches’), the question revolves around a broader social idea… I made a real effort to picture the dogs as individuals in their own right, not as accessories or symbols of something human. But it’s pretty hard to do – and I don’t know how successful I was in this respect. Our lives are so completely intertwined, and of course a photograph is a human cultural artefact. There is an inherent contradiction in attempting to simply photograph a dog ‘as a dog’: dogs don’t care about photographs. So the resulting works somehow reflect more about us, and the social structures we are ourselves forced to negotiate. The works you mention are made up of photographs of champion show dogs from the best kennels in England. Despite the proscriptive description in the Breed Standard, the variety and difference in features displayed by these prize specimens betrays the subjective nature of human relations.
The Refusal (Part 1) is my favourite work. It was taken at one of the very first photoshoots in 2001. The white bitch very deliberately stepped out of line, a defiant if futile move. This small act of resistance stuck in my mind and the image stayed with me. I finally produced it, larger than life and encased in a deep white specimen box frame. It was the final work I made for the project, and became the signature work of the show (The Refusal, Museum Folkwang, Essen, 2008).
Its hard to know how to feel about the subject in these works – its not often we observe the animal as part of such a scientific, emotionally disconnected aesthetic. And at the same time, in projects like ‘I Know what You’re Thinking’ and ‘Terence, Vincent, Saffi, Iris, Shaun & Monique’, the Whippet’s inherent trepidatious expression humanises the dogs in a unique way. I found the clinical photographs disturbing. This side profile, with no exchange of look between human and animal is how ‘breed’ is traditionally pictured. I emphasised the form of the dog with background lighting to bring out the features important to a judge at a dog show and carefully cropped and printed them to a standard akin with the care a breeder might take to present their dog in the show ring. They are definitely objects of desire – to be looked at but not engaged with. Breed, another clinical work, takes this a step further. The images are glossy, cold and clinical, mounted and displayed on aluminium discs to evoke medical experimentation, but the dogs themselves are shown in a more vulnerable manner.
The portraits you mention were made as a response to the clinical images, shot with the same show dogs. I didn’t want to humanize them – there are plenty of images out there already that do that, and which make me quite uncomfortable – but I did want to present them in a light where we might recognize what we share, bringing out the sentient quality of the individual dogs. The portraits are printed large, 30” x 40“, and hung with the Whippet eyeline at an equivalent human height so their unfathomable canine gaze meets yours as you enter the room.
In complete contrast to these works, ‘Untitled I, II, II and Portrait of a Dog’ explores some of the most intimate moments between man and dog, where the human subject is relegated to his most vulnerable state. It seems that here, the playing field between man and dog is leveled somewhat, there is no sense of ownership, no dominance of one over the other?
I’m glad you read them like that. It’s the kind of response I had hoped to achieve, but these works in particular have had mixed reactions. Our relationships with our dogs are very intimate – and often more enduring than our human relationships. But many people have read some kind of debauched sexual relationship into the fact that the male figure is naked (see Kunstforum International review of The Refusal here). I was merely trying to picture both man and dog in their natural habitat (cultured domestication), drawing attention to our shared characteristics as well as our animal differences.
You’ve obviously worked with many show dogs and their owners. In witnessing relationships where the dog serves a specific purpose other than pure companionship – have you made any personal observations? When you have this kind of ‘show dog’ relationship with your animal, do you think it drowns out the emotional connection somewhat?
No, if anything I think it enhances it. Certainly in England (the only experience I have had) the breeders I met all had a great relationship with their dogs. Dog showing is a hobby which requires patience, dedication, hard work, long hours, and above all a love and understanding of the dogs themselves. It would not be my choice of how to spend every weekend, but through participating in shows, the dogs are socialized with other dogs, and they appear to develop close bonds with the breeders who train and handle them in the show ring. There is a strange mix of love, control and discipline required of both dog and breeder.
Can you talk a bit about your intention in ‘Sighthound’? It seems to come from a substantially different angle – its the only work which explores the dogs in a more wild and natural state.
These are my own pet dogs, photographed on the edge of Epping Forest where I used to run them every day. The Refusal is a project about looking and being looked at. In Sighthound I was interested in the dogs’ experience. Whippets have excellent vision, but a very different attitude to looking to us. They are not interested in image or aesthetics. They’re far more concerned with the here and now, in inhabiting the physical body. Sighthound is an installation work. The viewer has to crouch down to peer into pairs of backlit 3D viewers. In some images the dogs are barely visible and the viewer is required to adopt the dog’s posture and attitude (of hunting) in order to view the work.
Did you discover anything new about your dogs/you/your relationship when photographing them?
My two dogs were the inspiration for the project. They both fell short of Whippet perfection (Terence has only one testicle, Vincent has a roach back and is painfully thin – even for a Whippet) but provided me with an understanding of the passion the breeders display for their dogs. My dogs ended up in many of the final works: a photograph of Terence is slipped into Twelve Dogs, Twelve Bitches, my ringer amongst all the champion dogs. He’s the one not standing correctly… Vincent, appears in Vincent originally made for the Hiscox show Weeds. They also both appear in the circular works, At home and It’s all in my mind as well as the Untitled portraits with man and dog discussed above.
I learned that they love having their photograph taken and are far more patient and obedient in front of a camera and lights than they are normally. They engage totally and seem to intuitively understand the process, often posing unasked when the lens is cocked (see Portrait of a Dog). William Wegman once told me that he had the same experience when using the large format Polaroid. He said his dogs would become totally engrossed and just knew when to look to camera.
Photography by Jo Longhurst
Visit Jo Longhurst’s website here
Will Robson-Scott is a London-based photographer whose defining attribute is his ability to represent those on the fringes – and he does it well.
Robson-Scott’s work gives the impression that he’s just as adept working with people as he is working the camera. Gaining entry and permission to record notoriously illusive and private sub-cultures can’t be easy (and isn’t always safe). A high level of mutual trust and empathy has to be fostered. This is the ingredient that transforms simply looking at a photo into witnessing an honest moment of human exchange. Considering this, it’s not surprising that Robson-Scott’s In Dogs We Trust project perfectly captures the understanding and unity between dog and owner.
Talking to a guy who describes his work as ‘taking photos of people who don’t want their photo taken’, am I possibly interviewing a person who doesn’t want to be interviewed? No the opposite, it’s very flattering to be asked about your work, I just don’t like to over elaborate.
What do you love about the kind of work you do?
Photography is a passport to any situation you want access to, that and moving image are great mediums to explore situations and meet people that would normally be alien. Travelling is also a massive plus and getting paid is nice aswell.
Is there anything you don’t like about it?
There is nothing I can complain about with my personal work, doing commissions can be testing at times and waiting to get paid can be infuriating.
I’ve always imagined it difficult to approach people asking to take their picture. How do you go about it/developing some sort of rapport with your subject?
With long term projects I usually have a personal connection however tenuous and just persist, I still have difficulty approaching people on the street, but its one of those obstacles you have to overcome if thats the sort of photography you want to pursue; with long term projects I also have a personal interest in whichever subject I’m focusing on, if you are not interested you are not going to make anything of any interest.
Where is the most interesting place the In Dogs We Trust project has taken you? Shooting Martin Parr and his dog Ruby was a bit nerve racking but he was pleasant and understanding about it, he also used one of shots for a book he did, which was very flattering. Going to a Double S kennels in Compton was great aswell, the pits or bully dogs as they’re called out there are the monsters trucks off dogs, also watching an attack trained American Pitbull in action was eye opening.
Did any of the subjects/their stories stand out?
I shot jewellery designer BiJules and another photographer Allessandro Zuek with their dog in NYC, they had been kicked out an apartment because the building had a no dogs rules and a few weeks later the whole building burnt to the ground.
Did you find people from different places/cultures have different relationships with their dogs, or is the whole dynamic pretty universal?
Yes it differs a lot, some dogs on the West Coast of American are not so much pets but more objects of desire, a lot of them are kept in cages and bred to maximise their features to amount freakish extremes. Crufts (the dog show) was also insane, people were actually a bit stand offish as they were obviously aware of being shown in a certain light, I have had no bad experiences though, and I strongly believe their are no bad dogs just bad owners. I think universally there is a bond between dog and human.
How has your kind of ‘reportage’ style developed? Deliberately? Naturally?
What got me interested in photography was traditional reportage, the idea of telling a story or trying to expose something hidden is still what drives my work but I try and develop and mature my work, otherwise it gets a bit stagnant.
If you turned the camera on yourself, what would we see?
A slowly greying caucasian male in a shirt.
Do you have a dog of your own? If you answer yes – are you alike?
Yes, Rusty, a cairn terrier, I hope I’m as full of beans as him and I hope he’s not as cynical as me.
Photography by Will Robson-Scott (in conjunction with Olly Grove)
See the complete series and more of Will’s brilliant work here
It would be an understatement to say that Wilfred has come a long way: from a short film that won Tropfest in 2002 to a prime time sitcom on US cable channel FX.
Four talks to Wilfred’s co-creator and star of the show Jason Gann (who might even out-shine Frodo in our very biased opinion) about his proverbial journey from the suburbs to the big-time. Those who have already seen Wilfred will be adequately prepared for what follows. For those who aren’t familiar with Wilfred’s brand of quintessential Aussie charm, get ready to meet the man inside the dog(suit).
Congrats on Wilfred in all its iterations. How has the ride been? Surreal. It started out as just a joke. I’ve always taken things too far.
You’ve had a finger in a few pies — acting, writing, producing…
Which role do you prefer? Oh dude… hard question. I love a mixture of them all. I’ve got a short attention span so I like to do a little bit of everything… and not a lot of anything.
How/why/where and when did the concept of Wilfred come about? I was baked one night at Zwary’s (Adam Zwar) and he told me about a dog that cock blocked him after a date. I just started acting like the dog and Big Willy was born.
When we were in NYC when we saw US Wilfred premiere on FX. It was exciting for us to see it, it must have been really exciting for you. But if you take away the money, do you still like working with Americans? Haha. Funny. You know it’s a cable comedy right? I love working here with this team. The business is just so exciting. They take their comedy as serious as I do… and that’s pretty fucking serious. I’m lovin it.
In real life dogs are the most honest animals you will find. But ‘truth be known’, Wilfred is a devious C-word in a very human way. Which dog (or possibly human) if any, is the character based on? When my friends first saw the short film they didn’t even laugh. They all said ‘That’s just you in a dog suit.’ Look, all the things you like about Wilfred? That’s me. All the things you hate? Character research.
The Australian original was darker and more subtle in some ways. How much does tolerance and comedic sensibility differ between Australian and US audiences, how did you deal with it when adapting the show? I think the US version is darker. Wilfred molested at Doggy Day Care? Murdering old people at a hospice? Eating out the arse of the mum from Malcom in the Middle? That’s pretty dark dude. There is less swearing, but I think that just made us work harder to find the darkness. At first I was a bit worried about that. Now I prefer it. It means we can reach a much bigger audience. We weren’t able to sell the Australian version anywhere else in the world, so something had to change.
It’s impressive the way Wilfred doesn’t cater to the ‘lowest common denominator’ when it bends the rules of reality so much. A lot is left unexplained, for example, why Wilfred is an Aussie dog (in the US version), or why only Adam/Ryan see him as a guy in a dog suit. How do you make that work? The same as I always did. Get in the dog suit and talk.
No one taught Wilfred how to eat the arse out of a dead possum, he just knew. How much of your skill as a writer/actor is instinctive and how much is acquired?
I studied acting at Uni for 3 years as a pup. A couple of years ago I thought I might go back to study screenwriting, to pick up the theory behind the practical. But when I looked at the structure of the courses, it would have been a bit of a joke me being there. I’ve written a lot of stuff now. It would be cruel to make the lecturers feel more like failures then they already do. (Does that sound arrogant?)
What are the most vital ingredients to a successful comedy/sitcom, especially one that pushes boundaries of believability? For me, its heart first, filth second. Feed the soul, then suck the dick.
We thought you were a dog person for sure, but we’ve heard that you own cats. Can it be true? Did you at least have a dog growing up? I neglected my fair share of pet dogs over the years. Dogs are a bigger responsibility than kids. At least you can send your kids to their mums… or their grandparents… or boarding school… or hell. How can you look a dog in the eyes and kill it? Seriously.
What’s next on the cards for you? I’m gonna have a pull when I finish this interview. That’s in the short term.
We wanted to ask you an edited series of questions taken from the Proust questionnaire, made famous by Bernard Pivot and more recently James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio (a guilty pleasure). Feel free to answer as yourself or Wilfred.
What is your favourite word? Adam What is your least favourite word? Tony. Only joking! It’s Jenny. What turns you on? Hot girls on Facebook What turns you off? Old dudes flashing their gear at parks. I guess it depends on what mood I’m in. What sound or noise do you love? The sound of a little kid getting smacked in a supermarket. And the scream after, obviously. What sound or noise do you hate? The silence in between the smack and the screaming. What is your favourite swear word? Bulldust. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Army killing What profession would you not like to participate in? Semen testing. If heaven exists what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?‘See, I told you I was an alien! We all had sex with monkeys and that’s how we made you lot! LOL!’ And I’ll say ‘I know dude. That’s what I’ve been sayin!’
Now that you’re in Hollywood you’ll probably have a lot of new opportunities come your way. Maybe Alex Baldwin will do a guest spot on the show? Fingers crossed. Mate, I’ ve got my hands full with Facebook.
Thanks. No, thank you.
All images courtesy of FX
Catch season two of Wilfred coming in 2012 on FX
Appropriately stationed in Paris (dog-poo capital of the world), I find myself talking to Campbell Boyer of Spore, about the design process behind his sustainable pooper-scooper. And to the city of Paris we say – get on to lé Port-a poo s’il vous plait. You’re beautiful but you smell nasty.
Where did the idea come from?
A fella came to me with the idea for a product that would encourage people to stop using plastic bags to scoop up their dog poo on walks. His idea was for something re-usable and washable. But really, I didn’t think anyone would be bothered washing poo off anything… so I tried to convince him to head in a different direction – something disposable but with real sustainability credentials.
What inspired the form and materials used?
It’s a little embarrasing but the idea came from a McDonald’s Apple Pie box.
McDonals’ do package up a lot of crap…
Ha, spot on. Its a basic pillow box but modified with a tear-off tab (to shovel in sticky poo’s) and more thickness on the edges (this way it fits the taller proportion of some dog poo better). I wanted to avoid the owner having to feel the texture of warm poo like you do through a plastic bag. The box flat packs, its light and portable, but when you fold it up the edge is sharp and rigid becasue it’s curved – good for scooping. 100% post-consumer recycled card was the obvious material choice; its tough, thick and has low embodied energy. There are alot of other products made with bio-plastics boasting good sustainability credentials. That ‘bio’ label is a bit dubious because alot need very specific environmental condidtions to break down – like sunlight and air – which they may not get in landfill. Plus there’s a heap of energy involved in making bio-plastics.
Images courtesy of Spore Furniture + Product Design spore.com.au