Creative Review: How did the idea for the Dog Eat Dog Calendar first come about?
Marina Tweed: We’ve always wanted to create a space for animals in The Gourmand, and in the past we’ve commissioned shoots such as cats and their favourite human foods, creatures crawling on Bordallo Pinheiro ceramics, and in our next issue we have mice and cheese! But what could be better than a sausage dog? So for our fifth issue in 2014 we commissioned Dog Eat Dog, a photo essay about dogs, food, and fashion. We cast five miniature dachshunds who all belonged to our friends, and then we invited food stylist Peta O’Brien to dress five hot dogs in the same vein as the dogs. We asked stylist Julian Ganio to create bespoke outfits for the dogs using Paul Smith’s SS15 collection and photographer Jess Bonham to shoot the story.
To celebrate the launch of that issue we held a doggy fashion show at Ace Hotel in London, with categories such as sports lux, tailoring and best in show, and invited celebrated fashion industry names to judge the show. Thereafter, we had to keep the Dog Eat Dog tradition going, so we created the calendar and continue to hold doggy fashion shows to launch it each year. We also donate the proceeds of the calendar to a chosen charity, and this year, the show will be ticketed for the first time and 100% of the tickets sales will go to animal welfare charity Mayhew.
CR: Do you see the calendar as an extension of The Gourmand brand?
MT: Yes, we’ve always been careful to keep a fun side to The Gourmand. The concept of the calendar – dogs that are named after food featured with their namesakes – is quite silly in theory, but by working with such a fantastic team and executing the shoot to such a high standard is quite a Gourmand thing to do.
CR: What does the process of bringing the calendar to life involve?
MT: We set the shoot dates and then the fun starts with a casting call on Instagram, inviting people to enter their dogs who are named after food. We then have to cast from some 200 plus entries. Once we have our edit down from 200 to under 20, it comes down to availability. Ellie, our Managing Editor takes pride in producing the shoot for us and taking over from this point – the hardest part for her is getting back to the dogs who didn’t get in!
Meanwhile Jess and I will work with the set designers or food stylists to develop the sets or still life once we’ve confirmed our dogs. Some people offer to fly their dogs over from LA, others offer to change their dog’s name to anything we like! But we make sure that each name is authentic and never encourage anyone to travel great distances with their pets.
CR: How do you choose which dogs to include during the casting process?
MT: That’s the hardest part, we will all have different opinions on what’s a cute dog, or what’s a great name, but it’s important to keep a good balance of different sizes, colours, breeds and most importantly names that would work with the still life or sets that we create.
CR: What is shoot day like?
MT: Hilarious! We shoot at Jess’s studio, which is also her home. We have an hour per dog and in the past shot everything over two days, but this year we allowed ourselves a bit more time as we were working with big sets rather than food still life. There’s usually a food stylist in the kitchen prepping the food, and a doggy model running around trying to eat the sets. In the past we’ve featured rescue dogs that were up for adoption, they can be the trickiest to shoot as their behaviour is a bit more unpredictable. As are puppies, who are often jumping around the set one minute and falling fast asleep the next.
We allow time for the dogs to meet and greet the team, spruce up a bit, and then there is a 15-minute window where you’ve got the dogs attention. If you don’t get the shot in that time then they tend to lose interest, stray from the set, eat the set, or some fall asleep. So at times, you have to ask them to pop out for a walk and come back fresh for another round. More often than not, the food shots take longer than the dogs. Small dogs are usually the easiest to shoot as they can just stand on a table. Big dogs can prove more challenging as one wag of their tail can knock the set flying. The owners will often bring a selection of treats – usually cheese – and toys to help encourage their pets. One owner even FaceTimed other members of the family to call out through their phones and get the dog to look at camera.
CR: Why did you choose to work with Jess Bonham and George Lewin Studio this year?
MT: Jess is traditionally a still life photographer (not a dog photographer, believe it or not), and her use of crisp, precise lighting and ability to catch the perfect angle is what really appealed to us when we first commissioned her for the dog shoot. Since then, it’s become a tradition to work with her on this. Plus I don’t know anyone else who would put up with such a crazy shoot! Some of our favourite shoots often come from us commissioning photographers to work on something outside of their usual practice. The same goes for George Lewin and her team, they work on big sets for fashion shows and shoots, so commissioning them to create sets that reflect each dog’s name was all part of the fun.
CR: Why did you decide to go with more conceptual food set designs for the 2019 calendar compared to other years?
MT: We were conscious that we didn’t want to repeat previous years too much, and this seemed to be the best way to give this year’s a new feel. I’m thinking we could get even more niche for next year’s calendar – dogs names after sandwiches, or dogs named after cakes, or cheese.
CR: Why do you think dogs and food make such a good combination for a calendar?
MT: Who doesn’t love food? And who doesn’t love dogs?
The Dog Eat Dog 2019 Calendar costs £15, and is available from thegourmand.co.uk