Jesse Freidin is a professional dog photographer. If that sounds like an amazing way to make a living, you’d be right: We had to pinterview this noted photographer not only for his devotion to traditional film printing techniques, but also because his work simply puts a smile on your face. If the Doggie Gaga Project doesn’t get you laughing, read on for how Polaroid cameras can inspire a young kid for life.
To get things going, can you share a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m a professional dog photographer, working in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. I love my job a lot. I also love photography, and my Boston Terrier ‘Pancake.’ When I’m not in the studio, or the darkroom, or out photographing (which is very rare, when you are a self-employed artist), I like to go hike a mountain while Pancake begs for treats from all innocent passers-by.
You produce all your work “the old fashioned way,” starting with an analog 1970s Hasselblad camera to printing every piece yourself in a darkroom. How did you get started in photography and what makes you so passionately committed to traditional film processes?
I became obsessed with analog photography at a young age through using old Polaroid cameras, which is why the medium for me is all about the tangible - ie: film, chemistry, papers, manual cameras instead of digital, computers, pre-made photo filters etc. Is there a huge difference between analog and digital photography? Not really, except that analog photography forces the artist to slow down, have a deep understanding of the intricacies of the craft, be responsible for their work and intentional about their images.
In a world where the computer and internet rule, I see people longing for realness and handmade work. Like a woodworker hand-carving a table or a painter filling a huge canvas - analog photography is all about the magic and history of the craft. Which is why I love it.
Probably the work you’re most known for is the Doggie Gaga Project. How did it come about?
The Doggie Gaga Project came about from what one might consider a dare. Right when Lady Gaga became Creative Director of the Polaroid Corporation (early 2010), there was a new amazing company revitalizing instant film called The Impossible Project. Since I was such an insane Polaroid/instant photography fanatic, I got to know them. They sent me two packs of very rare and extinct original Polaroid film (that had ceased production) and said that since I loved dogs so much it would be funny if I photographed a few dogs dressed like Lady Gaga. The rest is history. I took that rare film, loaded it into my 4x5 field camera, worked with a few good friends to design and construct original Lady Gaga costumes to custom fit a handful of my favorite dogs, put it on the internet - and it completely blew up. We shot the entire first series in one night. It was a creative project that let me experiment and push myself, while staying true to my analog style. Also - it was incredibly fun.
As a dog photographer: What are some of the most challenging things you’ve dealt with or some of the most memorable moments you’ve experienced?
Putting dogs and photography together felt totally natural for me. I am fascinated with observing relationships, and photography allows me to do that in a very intimate way. Giving my clients permission to celebrate and be emotional about their animal companions is a very moving experience, and something I witness every single day in my work. During a photography session there is inevitably a handful of mishaps (dogs running around the yard when you want them to just sit in the shade, dogs puking up their breakfast in the middle of a shoot because they are so excited, the photographer falling backwards down some stairs, etc.), but the magic of photography is being able to find the quiet moments between those realities and create portraits about connection and love. Editing is a very powerful tool, and sometimes those awkward or funny moments actually result in great images.
Finally, how do you use Pinterest in your day-to-day?
Pinterest is a great visual way to use social media. I have Pinterest boards dedicated to some of my own fine art dog portraiture that I pull from my blog, or other media articles where my work is featured. I also have boards where I can share some of nerdy art interests, which is a really easy way to stay connected to my photography community and connect with other artists that share my aesthetic. For me, Pinterest is a huge visual tally of what kind of imagery and creative themes our world is drawn to. It’s sort of a peep hole into what people around the world think is visually interesting- which can be a great resource for any kind of artist.