The Doggie Gaga Project: The Interview

It’s gone viral all over the internet.  The Doggie Gaga Project – a series of Polaroids from photographer Jesse Freidin.  It’s been linked to all over the place and was featured on the Regis and Kelly show on the morning of March 18th.  You’ve probably seen it.  And if not, you should check it out because it’s awesome.

I first met Jesse Freidin back when he was taking photography classes.  He was looking for people to be photographed and I volunteered myself.  It turned out later that we had some friends in common and so I’ve hung out with Jesse a few times.  As a thank you for being a subject in his photography project he gave me a print of one of the pictures he took of me.  I gave it to my mom.  When the Doggie Gaga Project exploded the other day I called her to tell her that she has a photograph by a now-famous photographer and I ended up having to explain to her who Lady Gaga is.

Before this whole thing exploded, though, I had posted about the Project on Facebook and was approached by Mr. Kitty Sneezes himself (Matt) and asked to do an interview with Jesse for the site.  I chuckled and asked Jesse, he agreed and Matt sent me the interview questions and then the Project went viral and Jesse got super busy with interviews and emails and phone calls but he still took the time to do the interview with me because he’s just that awesome.

Seriously, check out his website.  The fine art dog photographs posted there are absolutely amazing.  There’s a startling simplicity to his work that is so perfect – you know it captures the moment in a way that most day to day photographs just miss.  My memory of being photographed by Jesse is a good one.  I’ve never particularly liked having my picture taken and I was concerned that he might be picky and demanding but it was just the opposite.  He made me feel completely at ease and as a result I think he got a really good picture – if I may be so completely conceited.

And I know that if he can be that good with a person like me, he has to have a magical touch with the dogs he photographs.

It’s also awesome to see someone who deserves good things get those good things.  Not everyone gets to bask in the spotlight and so often I see friends of mine passed over and miss out.  Jesse deserves awesome stuff.

If you like the Doggie Gaga Project, please check out Jesse’s other photography and recognize that he is now going to be in high demand – and deservedly so.  If you own a dog and you want the best dog photographer to immortalize your dog, I highly recommend getting in touch with Jesse. If he ever branches out to fine art cat photography or if I ever get a dog someday I know who I’ll be calling.

PART ONE (the KittySneezes questions)

DARYN: At this moment in time, what is your favorite song?

JESSE: I’ve been listening to a lot of old Foo Fighters – this mix that someone made me of Foo Fighters from the 90s.

D: What’s your favorite band that you don’t think a lot of people would have heard of?

J: Explosions in the Sky.  They’re one of my favorite slow core ambient bands.

D: What, if anything, is on any particular wall (your choice) in your domicile?

J: There is a mural that a good friend of mine painted of my dog in a sailboat with a raincoat and the sailboat is full of his favorite toys.  I have some darkroom prints I’m working on and some prints from local artists from around the city [San Francisco]

D: What’s the strangest thing you own?

J: I own a shark in a jar of formaldehyde.  A baby shark.  It was a gift.

D: Of the things you’ve done, what’s your all-time favorite (however you want to interpret that, be it artistic works, actions, whatever)?

J: This whole experience [The Doggie Gaga Project] is rating high up there.  And also another favorite thing related to this is having the Impossible Project recognize me and send me film with a personal note, it was really exciting.

D: Who’s your favorite visual artist (excluding yourself)?

J: Annie Leibovitz is my favorite photographer.  I have this obsession with her work – I own a lot of her books.  There’s something magical about the way she creates colors and brings her personality and vision to her professional and personal work.  She has this personal approach that is so emotive.  I think it’s awesome.

D: What are the five most recent films you’ve seen?

J: I pretty much never go to the movie theater because I think it’s weird to sit in the dark with people and not talk so I rent movies and the last movie I rented was… Buffy the Vampire Slayer the movie because it’s amazing, I love Joss Whedon.  Before that, I was watching the Dexter series which has taken up a lot of my time but it’s really amazing.  On my Netflix queue I have Benny and Joon and Cry-Baby coming next.  I like watching movies that I love.

D: What’re your top three movies?

J: Some Kind of Wonderful, I grew up on that movie it’s my number one favorite of all time.  Hedwig and the Angry Inch is another favorite.  And the entire original Frankenstein series by James Whale – those are other favorites, I own all of them.

D: Do you own any original artwork, and if so, whose?

J: I don’t have anything original yet but I’m excited to one day have a home and money and to buy original pieces but right now I don’t.

D: What is your favorite game?

J: Apples to Apples.

D: If you could name a child anything in the world, what would it be?

J: Buster

D: What is your favorite meal?

J: Hamburger is one of my favorite things.

D: What is reality?

J: Zero.

PART TWO (the Daryn questions)

D: How are you feeling right now?

J: Aside from completely overwhelmed and exhausted I’m feeling very excited and proud of the project and just a general OH MY GOD OH MY GOD.

D: Which Doggie Gaga outfit was the most fun to make?

J: I think the frog costume was the most fun and since I only have a limited skill set in creative things like that – I’m good with cameras and photographing but I’m not crafty with the costumes – I was able to get a hand-selected group of my friends that are gifted in crafting ways and we planned all the costumes.  I didn’t do much, I glued some stuff with a hot glue gun and was told I was doing it wrong so I didn’t do that much in the costumes but I think the frog costume was the most fun.

D: What is your favorite Lady Gaga song, did you see her show when she was last in town, and are you going to see her when she comes back to town this summer?

J: Before the whole project I knew who she was but I was not familiar with her work or songs.  But as the project got more developed I got more familiar with her work and I got to really see how she presents herself and how she pushes the limits and that is enticing and inspirational as an artist but I don’t think I would go to her concert unless she invited me [laughs].  I did see her video for Telephone which is amazing, revolutionary and hot.

D: You shot these pictures on some of the only original Polaroid film left in existence.  Did you feel really pressured?

J: Yes.  I did.  Aside from feeling like the press was already building before the shoot happened, The Polaroid company and the Impossible Project are all heroes of mine.  Polaroid doesn’t make film anymore.   I had 20 shots and that was it.  The film was like gold to me.  Who knows if they’ll make anymore ever again?  I was so flattered that they sent me this film.  Shooting dogs if also a very difficult thing to do – I had to make sure we set things up perfectly with two shots to get it right.

D: What is your favorite medium to shoot on?  Camera type(s)?

J: My Polaroid Land Camera is my favorite, my number one.  I also use my 1970s Hasselblad for my fine art dog portraits – that’s what I use for my clients and personal work as well.

D: Can you briefly describe how you came to be a dog photographer, what interests you about photographing dogs in particular?

J: I got into doing dog photography because it was a revelation of being able to combine the two things I love the most: photography, which is my largest passion in life and dogs which I am also very passionate about.  I’ve been working with dogs every day for the last five years.  There’s something very special about how they, our companions, support us emotionally in life, I think it’s beautiful.  And I think that deserves a special photographic approach.  I don’t think dogs should be photographed in a studio.  I think you lose the character.  They should be photographed in the most rich and emotive way possible.  It’s a slow and emotional and personal proce

D: What is the story behind naming your dog Pancake?

J: The name Pancake was created before Pancake the dog came into my life.  I knew I was ready for a dog and I love pancakes.  Also my partner at the time had a ferrel cat that had large paws that she called pancake paws.  Then I got Pancake and he was so cute like a little pancake.



Jesse Freidin is a fine art dog photographer and all-around awesome guy.

Daryn Cash is a dude who interviewed him and was once photographed by him.


2007, Daryn Cash photographed by Jesse Freidin


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