Interview by Valentina Romano
Carli Davidson shares the secrets behind the creation of ‘Shake‘: a book including some of the most amazing shots she took of dogs shaking when they are wet.
THE GOLDEN SCOPE TO CARLI
Where are you from? Age? Family?
I grew up in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. I am currently living in Portland Oregon with my husband Tim, our dog Norbert, and our cat Yushi. I’m 32.
How did you get into photographing animals?
I grew up n a household of artists and always had a camera. I took my first class when I was 15, and had been working with animals even before that at a nature reserve across the street from my house. It was a natural progression that they came together. The fact that I can make a living at it is secondary to making the art, but it’s much appreciated.
What’s the ultimate goal of your photographic work?
At the moment it’s to tell interesting stories about animals or people in our lives, and to hopefully help people recognize the sameness of all creatures.
Where did the idea for SHAKE come from?
My own dog shaking inspired me. He shakes a lot. I clean a lot of drool off my walls; he’s a mastiff!
What were you trying to capture in SHAKE?
I didn’t know what to expect when I did the first shoot. After seeing the first few images, I realiSed that what I was capturing was something playful, light hearted and somewhat bizarre. Watching the photos upload onto my computer is so fun.
How did you get the dogs to shake?
I use a variety of techniques, but I’m not giving all of my secrets away just yet.
Did you wet the dogs first?
Some of them were wetted down. 😉
Where did you find the ‘dog models’?
Many of them were sourced from friends and locals in Portland and by way of social media. A few of them came through a local rescue (Panda Paws) and have since been adopted, the rescue owner who is also one of my assistants also got in touch with past adoptees to participate. It was a really fun production, and a lot of people came together to make it happen.
Why do you think series is so well received?
Because seeing something that’s so familiar look so unusual intrigues us.
How (and when) did Shake come about? How long did it take you to complete?
My first shake photo shoot was March 10th, 2011. The first time I uploaded the photos I couldn’t stop laughing, I knew I had to keep shooting it and create a body of work! I shot my last photo for the book a few months ago. I was taking to a friend recently about how my dog Norbert inspired the series, I don’t remember exactly when the a-ha moment really hit, but it very well might have been when I was cleaning his slobber off of my walls.
How many separate dogs did you shoot for Shake?
So many. Officially I scheduled over 120 dogs for the book, but not every one of them shook. I knew I needed to account for the non-shakers. To date, I have over 140 shake (two of each dog) photos edited.
What are the biggest differences between a human shoot and a canine shoot?
Animals work 100% on instinct; you can’t trick them, so if you are not committed to the shoot they wont perform. They can sense your stress and they respond to it accordingly. So much about working with animals is about being in the moment with them, listening to their needs and directing the shoot as you go. This is similar with people, but we can just ask people what they need. With animals you need to create a dialogue based on instinct and respect. One of my favorite differences about working with animals… I never have to worry about an animal not liking the way they look.
Who are your idols/influences?
Creative influences? I have a special place in my heart for Patti Smith, and Kathleen Hannah since as a young woman artist they really inspired me to just make art. I have so much respect for people whose art is a simple reflection of them, and not constrained by medium. As far as photo influences I would say Diane Arbus, Roger Ballen, Elliot Erwitt and Jill Greenburg.
In an age where everyone is a photographer, how do you stay ahead?
I strongly encourage everyone to do photography, whether it using an SLR or a phone, or anything else. I think the more people who are making art the better. It’s natural to want to take pictures of things you love, like your pets. I don’t think it’s about trying to stay ahead; I just shoot passion projects that others seem to respond to.