|Article Author: Nicole Feliciano|
Seeing the world through a dog's eye view by Nicole Feliciano
On the table
On the floor
On the sofa
By the door
Gave a treat
On the street
Took more pictures
By my feet
~Amy Spiegel, NYC
Owner of Stubby, a 4-year-old pug
No, this isn't an excerpt from Doctor Seuss. It's a poem about Mark McQueen - dog photographer extraordinaire. This nifty little rhyme was written by Amy Spiegel, a client of McQueen's; in it, Spiegel describes the photographer in action.
With each new photography assignment, McQueen disappears behind his lens and finds a special way to express a dog's joie de vivre. The enigmatic photographer isn't easy to interview. He parses out words like a stoic cowboy - not a celebrated artist. Beneath his shy exterior lies a sharp wit. Glance at his photos and you'll see McQueen is definitely in touch with his comic side; his pictures speak volumes.
McQueen isn't a slick marketer. He grew up in Stevens Point, Wisconsin and got his start in the business as a wedding photographer (he says brides are much more demanding than dogs). From there he found his way to New York and went on to build a career as a commercial photographer.
Since the early 1980's, the photographer has lived in Manhattan with his wife and a handful of cats. Initially his Lower East Side studio was where he photographed his human clients, corporate executives whom McQueen describes as, "basically people who don't want their photo taken." According to McQueen, these professionals are stiff, stressed and largely humorless - but the work supplied McQueen with a living and a chance to hone his skills.
Things got a bit sunnier for McQueen after an auspicious holiday to Paris. While shooting street scenes, McQueen discovered a few unusual muses: Parisenne canines. He found the French dogs to be an irresistibly silly foil to France's classic architecture and formal gardens. In a nutshell: McQueen was hooked on the ability of a dog to steal the show in any environment.
Back in New York, McQueen slowly integrated dogs into his work. He built a client base and a reputation as the guy who shoots the funny dog pictures. For McQueen humor can be found naturally; he doesn't dress dogs up in period costume or place them in absurd settings. He simply is able to unearth the inner Jerry Seinfeld in every dog's personality.
McQueen calls his pet photography business "phoDOGraphy." And the reserved McQueen lets his photos do the marketing work for his business. As McQueen tells it, the phoDOGraphy website is his best advertising tool.
Thanks to all those goofy pictures, the photographer can pick and choose his clients. Mostly he chooses dogs. According to McQueen, business is going well. Prices start around $499 for a single session. Each session includes a small leather album with ten prints and an 8"x10" portrait. (Note: Rates are subject to change and on occasion phoDOGraphy will run specials, it's best to contact McQueen via the phoDOGraphy Web site for current prices.)
McQueen reluctantly shared a few tidbits about his methods. His technique involves bending and contorting like mad to get up close and personal to teacup sized dogs. He believes his special gift is being able to keep a dog framed in the camera. This may sound easy, but consider that many of McQueen's subjects are merely inches off the ground. McQueen feels the best candids are shot from the ground. "When I shoot from ground level I am relying on serendipity," says McQueen.
Thanks to his 20 years of experience, McQueen says he is comfortable with any setting. He'll shoot pictures in his studio, at the dog's home, or in an outdoor setting. For confident dogs, the studio sessions are an ideal way to put a dog on a pedestal and isolate a pet's special details. In the studio, McQueen can expertly control the lighting and focus on a dog's expressions. When pressed to put his gift into words, McQueen says, "Nobody else out there has portraits with so much personality."
For outdoor shoots, McQueen likes to have relaxed owners and adventurous dogs. "I never know what we are going to get when I go outdoors... I shoot hundreds of pictures and narrow them down to a few keepers," says McQueen.
Kim Do, a satisfied client, had glowing praise for the photos of her French bulldog, Oliver. Do, a freelance make-up artist, says Mark, "got down and dirty and got some really great angles and candids of Oliver sniffing, frolicking and chewing." 3
Older dogs and nervous pets are often most comfortable in their own homes. For this type of assignment, McQueen brings his own lighting and totes his trusty Canon D-5 digital camera. He narrows the backdrops to two or three locations within a home.
Since he can't have dogs in his building (nor would his cats appreciate the new family members), every time McQueen meets an unfamiliar dog he makes a new friend. His current favorite breed to photograph is the French bulldog. McQueen describes these little rascals as, "a sheer delight" to work with. To him, they are simply the silliest dogs around. Other popular canine comedians include: pugs, Scottish Terriers, Jack Russells, Chihuahuas and Basset Hounds.
Not that he's a misanthrope, but McQueen clearly connects with dogs more than people. And if it weren't for the slow winter season, it seems likely McQueen would prefer to altogether relinquish his human subjects (and who can blame him after photographing lawyers and other suits for more than a decade). McQueen is thoroughly enamored with the pliable and expressive faces of his canine clients. In fact, McQueen is working on a book tentatively titled, Odd Dogs. This book (in need of a publisher) will focus exclusively on goofy dogs.
Lynn McClouchic, proud owner of Killer, an 11-year-old black Labrador is thrilled to share her experience with McQueen. McClouchic proudly displays her phoDOGraphy in her living room and had this to say about McQueen, "It's obvious that he's in love with his job, and most importantly his subjects." It would appear that McQueen does his best communicating with four-legged folks - and that's a beautiful thing.