With our 50th Anniversary approaching, at Butler and Wilson we have taken our celebratory campaign portraits in a new direction. We decided to turn the lens on our favourite canine friends – in all their elegant poise and beauty – to showcase the iconic jewellery collection. We caught up with friend of the house, photographer Liddie Holt, to find out more about using dogs as subjects, gaining their trust and the emotion behind these bold portraits (now on view in the flagship store windows).
B&W: Hi Liddie, I've seen the images in the window – they are so strong and evoke such emotion…fitting as B&W approaches our 50th Anniversary.
Liddie Holt: I think it's something very different – also the images are printed out really big around 4/5ft square – so people will stop in their tracks.
B&W: How did the project come about that you shot the jewellery on dogs? As a photographer what was your way in?
LH: Well, I have a really close affinity to dogs to start with because I look after them for friends and have photographed them extensively as they are beautiful beings and all have such incredible characters – I am obsessed photographically with them. Simon (Wilson) gave me a free hand as far as the jewellery was concerned – I thought it would be great to place the jewellery as necklaces like a collar – but the way a lot of the pieces hang, it becomes more about the chest than the neck.
B&W: Tell me about your background getting into photography.
LH: I modelled for years, so always been on the other side of the camera but have an understanding of it and the person behind it. I have always been fascinated by people's faces; they are boundless to me.
B&W: Yes, there's that great quote by Giacometti, I love: '…the adventure, the biggest adventure, is to see something unknown springing out of the same face every day.' I was interested how as a photographer it altered the relationship between subject and observer working with animals?
LH: I love portraiture so it's really not that different – when you stay long enough with a subject they will subconsciously reveal themselves totally (dog or person) – it's not like it’s posed. It takes a long time to build rapport with them – to get trust of the animal and then you can just photograph endlessly and get different expressions – it's all about their character and how they behave.
I live in Somerset – the images were all shot outside against a black drop – so it's like a headshot. I photographed the dogs all day but it was not staged, it's kind of ends up being the dogs decision when they want to be shot and whether it's front on or profile.
B&W: And how did you decide which dogs you wanted to use for this?
LH: They are all dogs I am very familiar with and come and stay with me – 14 in total. Ranging from tiny Pomeranian to Irish Wolfhounds, miniature Dachshunds, Labradors, and 'Gomez', a dog with a hairless body – so a complete array. It was also a case of matching the jewellery to the dogs – some of the Butler and Wilson pieces are the most elaborate and large of the designs so that came into which size of dog.
B&W: Are you trying to evoke a human connection with them in a photograph?
LH: No, I don’t think so – they are animals you have to let them be. For me the expression really comes through the eyes. I try to get eye contact with them – if they don’t want that, they give you a profile so you get that shot and they look wistful and thoughtful. It’s all about emotion.
B&W: What do you want the viewer to take from the photos?
LH: Just to appreciate animals and that they are all independent characters. As for the jewellery, it’s fantastic so it’s a double whammy!