A recent article written for The Atlantic posed the question, “Why are so many millennials obsessed with their dogs,” – to which the writer Amanda Mull noted in the subhead “The only thing getting me through my 30s is a cranky, agoraphobic chihuahua named Midge.” Dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, but the billion-dollar industry has seen an increase in the last few decades, and an even larger boost during the pandemic. Dogs, no matter the breed, are considered family members, adored by their owners. Olivia Grey Pritchard has been taking photos of people and places all over the world, but her newest set of clients is of the four-legged kind, capturing gorgeous shots of local New Orleans family’s furry members. This September, Pritchard released her new coffee table book “Mutts: A Celebration of Mystery Mixed Breeds.”
Q: Why was it important to focus on mutts specifically? Just from a personal perspective, I’ve always had mutts and my family has always had mutts, so that’s kind of how I was raised. When you want a dog, you go to the shelter and get a dog. Then also, there are some beautiful coffee table books out there of dog portraits. Randall Ford, Vincent Meucci, there are some amazing books out there. And I know because I bought all of them. I was researching this particular project, and I just wanted to see what had been done before. There was nothing that was only mutts. There were books that had mutts in them alongside purebred dogs, but nothing that was just dedicated to mutts, and I just really thought they deserved their own book.
Q: What was photography process for the book? For about two and a half months, I had six dogs a day in the studio for two or three days a week, depending on my human shooting schedule – because I didn’t want to have dogs in and then have a newborn baby without a deep clean in between. So, some days were reserved for people and some days reserved for the mutts. Some dogs would be done in 10 minutes. I had them scheduled for hour intervals, just because some of them took the whole hour, because they needed 45 minutes to sniff and get comfortable. I would just keep working or chat with the owner, doing other things, and moving with the body language of “this is a calm, safe place.” It really just depended on the dog. And like I said, there were a few where I clicked the shutter and I was thought, “Oh, well that’s it. I’ll take a few more, but that’s the one.” Some owners would say, “my dog’s a model, my dog is made for this.” I have a lot of people who feel that way. One of them is Malibu Barbie’s mom. She posted Malibu’s picture and said, “from stray to slay.”
Q: What was it like dealing with dog clients, as opposed to people clients? I’ve always also done four-legged clients in the studio. One thing I’ve learned is that I’m allergic to dogs a little bit, which was really shocking because I grew up with dogs. But I started getting really bad sinus migraines and bad inflammation and sinus infections, and I went to the allergist. She did a more comprehensive test and told me I was a little allergic to dogs and I was like, “Oh, well that’s why I’m having so many problems right now.” A series of allergy shots later, I’m good to go. I really learned more technically, more so than about my creative process. For example, you would think maybe that two white dogs would have the same lighting setup. But they don’t, because their fur reflects light really differently. I had never noticed that before, because I’ve never shot two white dogs in a row separately. I had never really considered before. But the texture, the color, all of that plays into how light is reflecting off the animal. And it doesn’t matter if it was in color [or black and white].
Q: In the book, we loved the dog Chicory, who under her name said, “farts audibly.” What made you want to put facts or little tidbits about the dogs? It wasn’t always the plan at first, it was just gonna be the dog’s name and then the best guess of their breed mix. But I think somebody put something on their form because I asked for an interesting or unique characteristic about the dog so that I could feel like I know them better. Someone put something really funny and I thought it would be really cool and would make the readers feel more connection to the dog. I made sure to add that to the form. If the owner didn’t really give us anything from the form, or it was something simple, I would ask their unique story or for something that would paint more of a picture of the dog and I would reword what they said. Once we started doing that, I knew that that’s what we needed to do in the book because it just makes it all the better.
Q: Why should everyone have a copy of “Mutts”? It’s a perfect, joyful escape from the stress of daily life. It is funny; it’s heartfelt. It’s moving, especially if you get read the index. And even if you’re not necessarily a dog lover, I think you would still enjoy this book. I really feel like it’s for everyone. It’s the perfect happy book for any age and any holiday.
Mutts: A Celebration of Mystery Mixed Breeds by Olivia Grey Pritchard.
$45, Hardcover, 256 pages, available at your local book seller or at Oliviagreypritchard.com/mutts-the-book