Carli Davidson is a photographer, director and animal advocate who lives in portland Oregon with her cat Yushi, her dog Saul, and her partner Tim. Davidson has published three books; SHAKE, SHAKE Puppies, and SHAKE Cats, and is a NYT bestselling author. She has a background in animal care and training, and applies it to her photography while on set with animal models.
She is a member of Photoshelter, the leader in portfolio websites, photo sales, marketing and archiving tools for photographers.
How could we not talk about ‘SHAKE’ first? When and why did you start this immensely successful series?
This work was inspired by the animals in my life, mainly my dog Norbert who had so much drool to give the world, and my walls for that matter. It was cleaning Norbert’s drool off the walls of my house that gave me the idea to test some new high speed photo lights with his shake and see what kind of gross and wonderful things I could capture.
What are the logistics and challenges of one of your typical animal shoots?
For this SHAKE series there were a lot of stages to create the work. The initial production was finding animals. I decided I wanted to work with mostly rescues so we reached out to local shelters and friends who had rescued their dogs and cats. We interviewed people about how their pets did outside of the home to make sure they were a good low stress candidate. Then there was scheduling cast and crew. The actual photos took about an hour, the post also took about an hour, but it’s really a bigger process then just the photos. One of my favorite things about working with animals is that about 30-45 minutes has to be factored in per animal to make them happy, which makes me so happy. Lots of treats, and pets, and just sitting on the floor together.
Also these books, all the photos, I may shoot them but it’s only with an amazing crew that it can all come together. Amanda Giese, Tanya Paul, Mehgan Murphy, Martin Melnick, Variable Productions, Via Films, they all make the photos and the videos happen too.
How did you come to photography after your long career in animal care?
I always had a camera in my hand. My father was a creative director, and I would be on set with him a lot as a kid. I started assisting commercial photographers in high school as a summer job. The two were always kind of parallel in my life, so them coming together seemed pretty natural!
Do you have a photographic philosophy?
I’ve never been asked that before! I love when everyone takes pictures. I think people making art makes the world a better place and now with phones everyone has access to a camera. I love when my 99 year old grandpa takes a picture with his computer using the screen cam. That’s art. So is my sister taking bad cell phone pics of her kids. It’s all really amazing and wonderful. I like to be supportive, I think everyone can be a photographer. I don’t like the elitist idea that you need to have certain gear, or an education in photography. I am a critical art consumer, and have my personal taste of what I want to see and what I would spend money on, but that doesn’t stop me from encouraging people to create.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully a long vacation somewhere remote and new to explore, with my camera in hand.