There’s something magical about the relationship between a human and their pet, and that’s what inspired Johanna Siegmann’s series of portraits that developed into the book “In Good Company: Notable People with Their Pets.” The collection features portraits of public figures with their beloved animal companions.
Inspiration: A friend asked Siegmann to photograph headshots, and as they were wrapping up the session the friend’s aging dog ambled into the room. Her friend requested a photo with him, knowing his time was limited. “She was sitting in a chair, and he was lying at her feet, and it became clear that he couldn’t move,” Siegmann says. She asked her friend to join him on the floor. “That’s when the magic happened. Whatever it is that occurs between humans and their pets became visible to me and my camera, and the hair on my arms stood up.”
Subjects: Initially, they were friends of friends, but then she decided to seek out public figures. “Like everyone in L.A., I had a couple of notable friends, and they introduced me to others.” After that, she began reaching out to agents and managers.
Process: When she books a portrait session, Siegmann sends the subject a detailed intake form, which asks about their hobbies and what they like to do with their pet. From this information, she envisions a concept to present to the subject.
Challenges: The unknowns. Will the pet cooperate? Will it be spooked by the lights? Will the home have the right space for a session? Being as prepared as possible helps, as does being flexible when her vision doesn’t match up exactly with the pet’s mood. “It’s half and half where I’ll get what I had envisioned,” she says. “Sometimes the pet has other ideas, and those often turn out even better than my original idea.” She calibrates her energy to the pet’s, allowing them to connect with her at their speed and level.
Triumphs: “These portraits really call upon all my talents—my lighting skills, my styling, my directing, my animal empathy,” she says. “I get to meet people at their best moment, when they’re with their cherished pet.”
Amanda Arnold is a senior editor.
Tags: pet photography