As an animal photographer, Gerrard Gethings regularly captures the essence and personalities of dogs. For his latest project, he took things a step further and paired humans with look-alike dog breeds.
He undertook the project for a fun memory game, Do You Look Like Your Dog? and spent a year creating 50 matching “couples” that are both funny and uncanny for their resemblance to one another.
He shared some of his images with Reshareworthy.com, including long-haired Afghan and a silky-haired owner, and a Husky with eyes of different colors and a human with the same.
Gethings says he was inspired by the people and their dogs he saw around him. “We’ve all seen these couples in the park: An old man with an old grey dog. A bearded man with a schnauzer. Curly hair and a poodle etc.”
Over the next year, Gethings searched for his subjects. “I started with the dogs. Certain breeds would be essential because of their unique characteristics: Afghan hounds, Poodles, Pugs, bulldogs etc. I put out the word on social media and was inundated with dogs. I chose 10 of them and then set out to find their human counterpart.”
“The plan was to shoot the dogs, find the humans, style them, then have them behave or pose in a similar way. This process would be repeated until we had all the shots.”
“At the same time I would always have one eye on people I passed in the street. Many of the subjects I stopped in the park or on the bus and had to find a tactful way of saying, ‘you look exactly like a poodle. Can I take your photograph?'”
Gethings worked hard to get the perfect lighting and backdrop for the portraits, although it wasn’t without it’s humorous challenges.
“On the whole all the models behaved themselves beautifully. But you know, they are dogs,” said Gethings. “The huge Newfoundland had way too much love to give and almost killed my assistant, knocking her to the ground and cuddling her into submission.”
“Our beautiful, competition winning, standard poodle was in hair and make up for about two hours and then the next dog turned up early. They took one look at each other and set off together, rolling and barking across the floor. Hair ruined, the groomer was distraught. Another dog mistook my tripod for a lamppost and every other dog who followed saw this as an invitation that would be rude to ignore.”
“Most dogs will do almost anything for cheese, dog kryptonite. So it’s reasonably easy to position their head where I want it. If they are too greedy of course this approach doesn’t work because they will salivate and grab for the food. In this case a toy may be best. Some dogs react to movement, so I might throw a ball high into the air and quickly line up the camera. When the ball hits the ground there will be a reaction. Sometimes it hits me on the head. This also gets a reaction.”
The human subjects were much more easy to manage.
“Once we had achieved strong shots with the dogs, we styled the humans and had hair and make up highlight their similarities. Then we had them copy the pose done by the dog. Or maybe the expression. Whatever worked best.”
Gethings said that some photoshoots were smooth while others took a bit more work, with some being “calm and focused” while others could “take forever”. “Dogs are like people in this way. Some of them are very calm and gentle. Others are highly strung,” he said.
“Trying to get a stressed dog to look relaxed is difficult,” he added. “You can’t tell them a joke or ask them about their work or family. It’s a matter of staying with it and working out the right mechanism. It’s a very organic process.”
Gethings pictures have gotten a huge positive reaction, and the game Do You Look Like Your Dog?: Match Dogs with Their Humans: A Memory Game has been released and is now available through Laurence King Publishing or via Amazon.
For Gethings, he hopes the card game starts a conversation among people and they can have fun playing it.
“It is very light hearted and an idea that is familiar to everyone. I hope people look at the cards in the game and discuss similarities between people they know and their dogs. Or maybe they own a breed represented in the game and it reminds them of this relationship,” he said. “I also like the idea that kids will keep it and play with the cards.”
Asked if he looks like his own dog, Gethings responded, “I have been told that I do look like Baxter. We have the same hair colour and both sport a beard. We are also both laid back in our approach to life and love being outside in the elements. Now I think about it, we should probably have been part of the game.”