On October 22, Brooklyn-based animal photographer Winnie Au attended the 21st Annual Halloween Dog Parade at New York’s Tompkins Square Park. Since first learning of the parade several years ago, Winnie has been eager to photograph it—this year, she finally did, and it was just as fun and crazy of an experience as she’d expected. Winnie loves to make classic, honest portraits with a sense of humor to them, and she felt the parade was the perfect place to do so. The dog version that is.
So how did a fashion and portraiture photographer like Winnie get into shooting dogs in the first place? Well that’s an interesting story in itself,
I started years ago when I saw my neighbor’s dog, Bambi, hanging around in his favorite spot, the vestibule of my building. The vestibule happened to have that moment of perfect light, and I decided to take a few portraits. When I got that film back, I immediately responded to the photos—they had somehow captured the essence of Bambi perfectly, that aloof stare that he had always had in his eyes. I gave his owners some prints, and they later told me they cried when they received them because Bambi had recently passed away. It made me realize that aside from making a beautiful portrait, I could give people a gift that would stay with them forever and that really meant something to them. I’ve been photographing dogs ever since. There’s many pros to shooting dogs—they’re awesome subjects, always good looking, they don’t complain, and they’re hilarious to be around.
As for the parade, there was certainly much hilarity to be found. However, there are a few difficulties that go along with shooting costumed animals, mostly trying to get them to stay in one spot, “but usually the owners and treats go a long way to make this happen.” But the biggest challenge for Winnie during the parade was simply the large number of dogs,
I shot about 85 dogs in 4 hours, and I usually shoot about 1 dog in 2 hours. So that was crazy. Most of my shoots occur on location or in a studio, but I almost always shoot just one dog at a time, at most 2. I try not to have too many dogs booked in the same studio, because of the energy and the fact that they feed off each other. I usually like to photograph dogs when they’re comfortable and calm. So we purposely set up our studio so it would face away from the crowds and so each dog being photographed would really only see me and not be too distracted.
However, these minor challenges certainly didn’t outweigh the sheer cuteness level of the shoot. Winnie especially loved one little pup’s costume,
I have to confess that I’m currently obsessed with the Yorkie dressed up as the Big Bad Wolf. There’s something ridiculous and hilarious and amazing about this dog in this outfit, and I love that he’s wearing shoes. I might have to make myself a big print of this one.
The Big Bad Wolf.
Even with so many dogs, the shoot day went smoothly and Winnie ended up with some great shots. There was just one last little hiccup at the end of the day,
We were lucky, and there weren’t any accidents during the shoot for us to deal with. We made it the entire day without having our set peed on by any dogs, until the very very end, after we broke down everything, a tiny little dog decided to come by and pee on one of our sand bags. We were so close…
Bride of Frankenstein.