Now and then, I interview individuals who are doing something interesting, inspiring, and entrepreneurial – whether they are pursuing a particular interest, starting a non-profit or business venture, or somehow paved their own way to personal success and happiness. We can all learn from one another on how to better become leaders in our own lives, and I hope you find these conversations as inspirational as I do…
This week, I have the pleasure of talking with Amanda Jones, who I met nine years ago when I saw her featured in the NYTimes Styles section, and contacted her to take photos of my terrier Mason and me. When I rescued Sallie in 2010, Amanda of course did an amazing shoot with the two of them. Her work is framed all over my apartment (and has been featured on our Green Ivy holiday card every year since 2006). And now, I am so excited to share that she has started starting a stationary/greeting card line, The Dog Studio, using many of the images from her years of work. SO FUN.
Q. You are an acclaimed photographer who has traveled extensively, published several books, and been featured in the NY Times Styles section (side note: I can not believe that article came out in 2005!) What inspired you to focus on pet photography?
My inspiration for becoming a pet photographer was shaped by some of my first photography experience once I left school. I had been photographing people for years and was always disappointed in their reactions to the images. Instead of hearing, “What a lovely portrait that is of me!” I would hear, “Oh goodness, I look awful!” It was a letdown for me, artistically. I wanted people to be excited about my images when they saw them. When I began working with dogs I would hear, “Oh, I LOVE that shot!” or “That is another great one, how will I ever choose?” It was music to my ears. It was the rush of that emotional reaction that set my on the course to work exclusively with dogs.
Q. Whenever we start a new venture, there is often an “aha!” moment or two. What were the two or three big break or positive moments that made you feel there was a really a need for your photography focus and that you could really make this successful?
One of my earliest “aha!” experiences was when I did my first shoot with dogs. I had invited a bunch of close friends to bring their dogs into the studio in San Francisco. We worked with the dogs for about three hours and had a great time. When I mailed everyone their proof sheets, the reaction I got was the clincher. They all LOVED the photos and were really excited to get prints and to put them on their walls. That was the response that really told me that working with dogs just might be my thing. When I first started showing my work publicly, more “aha!”s came as strangers began to ask how they could get images like that of their own dogs. I haven’t stopped working with dogs since.
Q. You have travel all over the United States photographing people’s pets. What is your favorite part about your work? What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
My favorite part of my work is creating pieces of art that people will get
enjoyment out of for years. That feeling has a deepness and richness to it that is very rewarding and fulfilling. The most challenging part of my work is keeping up with all there is to do. My husband, Chris and I run my business together and there is always more work to be done. Sometimes it feels like it is all we do. We really have to push each other to take time to enjoy activities outside of the studio.
Q. In my book, The Myth of the Perfect Girl, I talk about this idea of “filling the box” – that is, girls and young women often feel pressured to follow some pre-prescribed path to success rather than create their own. Research shows girls and women tend to be more risk averse. How you were able to overcome the pressure and create your own vision of success?
I was never really pushed into a pre-prescribed path. There was never any, “You need to do this to become successful” in my house growing up. As a young person I was pushed to figure out what I enjoyed and what I was good at and then I was on my own to figure out how to make it happen. I let my passion and enjoyment in my work push me.
Q. I met you as a result of the amazing NYTimes Sunday Styles feature that was done on your work. I think I may have even contacted you the same day I read the piece. How did that article change your life (and your business)?
It felt like when you squirt lighter fluid on a charcoal grill. That article came along in the nick of time! My business was rolling along but was at a point where it really needed a break if it was going to go somewhere. I always run a full page ad in The Bark magazine and the author of the NY Times article had just rescued a dog and was intrigued with the culture surrounding owning a dog. He saw my ad in The Bark and called me to ask some questions about what I did. Our phone call pushed him to pitch the article to the Times Sunday Styles editor. When it released, the result was immediate. I think it filled my portrait session calendar for about 5 years. It brought a few celebrities into the studio and hundreds of new clients. Suddenly I was THE go-to photographer for dog portraits. It was an amazing day!
Q. You have just started a new venture, The Dog Studio, which is going to be a line of dog greeting cards and stationery using the dog images you have captured over the years (congrats on getting funded through Kickstarter!). What made you want to start this new adventure?
This new venture has been on my mind for some time. I have always felt that the photography of dogs that is used on greeting cards and stationery could use a step up in quality and character. I have 20 years of imagery that my clients have entrusted me with and I want to use it to reach that goal.
Q. What are your personal goals for the Dog Studio over the next few years?
To raise the quality of dog imagery used commercially across the board.
Q. You have a lovely daughter who is in high school. How do you think being a successful female entrepreneur and business owner has affected/inspired her?
I think it has enabled her to see that a woman can point her life in a certain direction and not have it directed for her.
What is your favorite breed of dog? Dachshund.
And now, for some fun questions:
Three words to describe you: dedicated, determined and a dreamer
Dream vacation: A week in Paris with my husband and daughter.
Favorite way to spend a free afternoon: In my garden.
Best movie of all time: Breathless with Richard Gere. Maybe not the BEST movie of all time, but he sure made an impression on 16-year-old me!
Favorite quote: Never ever give up. –Winston Churchill