WASHINGTON – They shake their furry heads and she shoots their funny faces.
Portland, Ore., photographer Carli Davidson has spent years photographing dozens of dogs as they dry off. With ears flapping and slobber flying, the images are at once “slightly hilarious” and “mildly terrifying,” she says. They can be seen in her new book, “Shake,” released earlier this month.
Davidson got the idea for the project from her 100-pound French mastiff, Norbert. For years she has chased after the pooch, cleaning up his drool from the walls and floors of her room, she says.
“I thought … this could be a really cool thing,” she says. “I tested it out in the studio and uploaded the photos and just started laughing.”
Two years later, Davidson says the best part of her art is feeling immediately satisfied after a photo shoot.
“As an artist, seeing something that you created and just instantly feeling that good about it is a real feeling of accomplishment,” she says. “It was an easy inspiration to keeping pursuing the project.”
Davidson combined her knowledge of photography — she started snapping away in high school — with her experience in animal care. Since she was a kid, Davidson has worked with animals. She volunteered at a nature reserve next to her childhood home, and worked at the Oregon Zoo as a photographer.
“Working with animals has been interesting,” she says. “They aren’t that much more challenging than working with people.”
To make her canine models feel comfortable, Davidson creates a relaxing environment for the dogs. She provides toys, water and even soothing music (Brian Eno is a favorite). She also allows them to explore the studio before setting up the camera.
But animals can be unpredictable, she says.
“It involves a lot of patience,” she says. “A lot of dogs don’t want to shake.”
Those that do enjoy modeling for her include Ramen Noodle, a 3.5-pound poodle who’s missing both front arms. He lives in his owner’s backpack and gets around on wheels when not walking on his hind legs. Ramen Noodle, so named because his fur is the color of the Japanese soup, has inspired his own photo collection, which you can see here.
Another favorite canine has dreadlocks, is incredibly friendly and makes a good therapy dog.
“Dogs lend themselves to the project — there is such a variety in the fur and hair. They are the perfect subjects,” she says. “I never run out of inspiration.”
Watch a video based on Davidson’s “Shake” series, and click on the gallery to see some of the dogs.