Growing up with a pet cartoonist for a father could have led photographer Butch McCartney to never want to see another wagging tail again. Instead, all of the time he spent at dog shows with his family only cemented a lifelong love of our four-legged friends, which he now puts to good use. In addition to capturing weddings, portraits of high school seniors, and award-winning show dogs alongside his wife, Kelsey, a fellow photographer, McCartney volunteers his time so pups at his local animal shelter in Marathon County, Wisconsin, appear in their best light as well.
“I get there once a month to photograph the new residents,” McCartney tells us. “Trying to find each dog’s personality when I photograph them is my number one goal.” That can sometimes be difficult with rescues, who don’t always ease right into McCartney’s go-to trick of howling in order to grab their attention. “I try to get a feel for their mood before jumping into my usual routine,” he says. “The best way I know how to do that is to sit down and play with them! Probably the best part of the job!”
Patience and his extensive experience being around so many different breeds helps break down any barriers more intimidated dogs might have, and the outcome is candid images that express the delightful nature of each potential pet—whether it’s an inquisitive stare or paws up ready for a belly rub.
McCartney genuinely cares about each subject he shoots. One particular pup, Rufus, really struck a chord with him: “I took his portrait at the Humane Society of Marathon County, and liked it so much I created a 24×36 acrylic of it for our studio display at dog shows. I loved his scruffy look, and there is so much personality in his expression! Fast-forward a few months and I get an email from a woman hoping for a [portrait] session for her two dogs. Rufus walks in the studio, and when she confirms it’s him, I raced to grab that acrylic and show her. Such a great moment!”
Have you ever imagined Amy Winehouse or Nick Cave as a Chihuahua, Neil Young as a Vizsla, or PJ Harvey as an Afghan hound? That’s exactly what San Francisco-based artist Michael Gillette has done through his unique illustration project, blending beloved, iconic music legends, both past and present, with their dog counterparts. Pack of Dogs, our first foray into book publishing, is a joyful title designed for music, pop culture and dog lovers alike.
August 25, 2020