London-based Photographer and author Tim Flach is world renowned for his work with animals, with work in several international major public collections and commisioned by the likes of National Geographic, The Sunday Times and New Scientist.
Over the past decade, Flach's work has increasingly focused on animals, ranging widely across species but united by a distinctive style that is derived from his concerns with anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism. BA (Hons) Commercial Photography for Fashion, Advertising & Editorial student Abby Donald was recently invited to work with Tim on a Christmas campaign for the charity Save The Children, featuring twelve of Instagram's favourite dogs.
We catch up with Abby to find out more about how she got the opportunity to work with Tim, and the experience of working with such an established artist...
Can you tell us about your photographic practice and your influences?
I decided that I wanted to specialize in animal photography, mostly dog photography, during my second year at the college. This was because I have always grown up around dogs, I love them and I enjoy photographing them.
During my research, I came across an American photographer called Kaylee Greer (Dog Breath Photography). Her work is fun and shows off the personality of dogs; I really love her work because it shows the connection we have with dogs and her style is different, fun and colourful.
I also discovered Tim Flach’s work and fell in love with his studio style and the meaning behind his work. I have focused on his book “Dogs Gods” and the way in which humans interact with dogs and how we make them more like humans.
The subject of my dissertation partly focuses on Tim’s work with dogs and the meaning behind his imagery. I have so many influences including photographers such as Seth Casteel who photographs dogs underwater and Christian Vieler who is known for his portraits of dogs catching treats.
How did you get the opportunity to work with Tim Flach?
I have been familiar with Tim’s work for a while. I have been using his books 'Dogs Gods' and 'More than Human' since June for research and inspiration. I wanted to interview Tim for my dissertation for some primary research, working with him is something that I wanted to do too but I thought that such a high profile photographer just wouldn’t have time for me to shadow him.
"It was lovely to meet someone with a similar passion for photographing animals. I always feel very privileged to be able to share my practice with young emerging artists. At a time when the industry is forever changing, its even more important to take the opportunity to get a better insight into professional practice. Abby fitted in really well, working well managing both the human and the canine models on the day!"
– Award-winning photographer Tim Flach
I emailed his London studio, with details of my dissertation and practice, asking if I could meet him for an interview. Just 12 hours later I had a reply from Tim himself offering the opportunity to join him and his team on a shoot for the Save the Children UK Christmas Jumper Day Campaign. I can’t even describe how amazing it was receiving an email from one of the world’s most well-known animal photographers!
Tell us what your average day was like while you were there?
I worked with Tim for two and a half days in his London studio. I arrived in the afternoon to meet his assistants and set up all the lighting and equipment for the Save the Children shoot happening the next morning.
I found this really interesting because I learned a lot about the processes involved in assisting a top photographer and what is expected of you. On the two shoot days, we photographed the 12 dogs of Instagram for the Christmas Jumper Day Campaign 2017.
The dogs we photographed are some of the most famous on Instagram in the UK. I helped style the dogs with the Christmas jumpers they were wearing. I also helped get their attention whilst they were being photographed, either using food or squeaking toys to get them to look at the camera. It was a very hectic and busy couple of days, but it was so much fun and I had the most amazing time.
What was the highlight of your experience?
Being in the presence of Tim Flach as he worked was the ultimate highlight. I love his work and I think he is such an interesting, talented and knowledgeable character; it was an honour to be there in his studio working next to him.
Learning from him and seeing how he works professionally on a live brief was incredibly valuable for me because I have never had the experience of what it is like to work in a London studio of such a successful artist. It was also incredibly helpful and kind of him to take the time out to talk to me about my dissertation and give me some reading material to help me out.
Would you recommend work experience opportunities to students?
I would 100% recommend that all students make the most out of any work experience opportunities available because it is such a learning curve and unbelievably helpful to have hands-on experience with professionals in your chosen field of study.
I feel truly lucky and privileged to have had this opportunity and I have learned so much about how to photograph animals, from how to interact with them, to lighting set-ups.
The charitable trust bursary available to students when applying for industry based learning is extremely generous and very helpful, and it’s there to be used! I would urge every student to take the time to find opportunities like this and make use of it because if I could do it again I would; I had so much fun and I have learned so much from this experience.
What's next for you?
I’ll be continuing with my dog photography and building my portfolio further; taking into consideration everything I learnt from my time with Tim I hope to create dog photography with a meaning, not just cute stock photographs of dogs.
"I am so excited to move forward with my photography and I really hope to stay in contact with Tim so I can work with him again."
The whole experience has opened my mind into creating imagery that has a significant meaning behind it; I hope to create a book for my final major project raising awareness of dogs that need rescuing and that are currently in rehoming centres throughout the UK. I hope to work with local and national charities to do this and create powerful imagery of dogs that need a home so that more people opt to rescue dogs rather than buying puppies.
- Explore our BA (Hons) Commercial Photography for Fashion, Advertising & Editorial programme and the facilities available to students
- Abby was supported by the Charitable Trust Bursary, available to students via the Careers & Enterprise team
- Take a look at Tim Flach's official website for more information on his work