We first discovered photographer Gerrard Gethings through his adorable Instagram feed, filled with pics of his dog, Baxter, and son, Jarvis. So when we discovered his back cat(dog)alogue and his plans to photograph every breed of dog, we just had to find out more…
If you could only photograph one subject for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
A smart subject would be Caribbean landscapes or the interiors of yachts. Something luxurious. But if I really had to choose something It would probably be dogs. Perhaps not the most unexpected answer for someone in my line of work but I never tire of them. I always look forward to work when it’s a dog day. My own dog, Baxter comes along with me and for him it’s a fun day out. He can be a little distracting sometimes, and on occasion has been banished for disrupting the shoot, but he is always welcome.
For The Company of Dogs portrait exhibition you photographed celebrities with their pooch pals. Who was the nicest celebrity? And which celeb had the coolest dog?
You tend to find that most people behave really well around dogs. I have photographed people over the years that are notoriously difficult, but when they’re with their dog they behave differently. You have a common interest and maybe they can hide behind the dog too. My exhibition subjects were all nice, and all different: Yasmin le Bon was something of a favourite. She was hands on and charming. Her dogs were really well trained too. Brix Smith was hilarious. She’d forgotten about the shoot so I called her and she came running round straight away, flustered and funny. She is eccentric and a real dog lover. Her dogs were pros too. Peaches Geldof was lovely and very scatty. It’s such a shame what happened shortly afterwards. There were so many, but the coolest dog was probably the Kerry Blue belonging to Dan Gillespie Sells from the Feeling. Handsome creature and trained to do the “stick ‘em up” routine.
How did your dog Baxter come into your life?
Baxter was always going to come into my life. I’d wanted a dog forever and from the first time I saw the film Anchorman I knew it would be called Baxter. I had convinced my wife that we needed a dog and then I convinced her that we should go see a litter of Border terrier pups. Not to get one, I said, just to have a look. The first breeder we visited we got Baxter. It was the perfect crime. I knew Katherine wouldn’t be able to resist when we met them. It was a cliché but Baxter picked us. He wasn’t a particularly handsome dog compared to his brother and sisters. He was the runt of the litter but was so tenacious. He would climb over the others to get to me and when I tried to put him down he’d hang from my trouser leg. He was hilarious and instantly became part of the family.
It says on your website that you’re planning to catalogue every dog breed. How long will that take? Will you need to travel the world to complete it?
It’s difficult to say. The list of breeds seems to change depending on where you are. There are the recognised Kennel Club breeds, plus the other very well established breeds that aren’t recognised. A whole bunch of Doodles around nowadays that wouldn’t be allowed in Crufts, but probably outnumber Labradors and Border Terriers. So I suppose the goal posts will be constantly moving. I’ve already shot most of the registered breeds but it seems I hear a new one every day. Reminds me of the Blackadder sketch where he meets Dr Johnson, who has recently finished his dictionary, and Edmond keeps on making up words that obviously won’t be in there. Only yesterday someone asked my opinion on the Prague Ratter? Never heard of one.
Based on looks and personality combined, which breed of dog do you think you’re most like?
As much as I’d like to pick an impressive breed, like a mastiff or wolfhound, I’m probably more like Baxter. We both like sleeping, eating and a nice walk. Oh and we have very similar beards.
Selfies: legitimate form of expression or crime against the camera?
I don’t mind them but they can get a wee bit annoying. I suppose people have been taking them forever. Cindy Sherman made a career of them. I remember when I was younger, in the days of film, if I came across a camera I would pull a face and shoot a selfie. The owner of the camera would find the picture when the film was developed. I think this was pretty much standard practice in the eighties. There has been an explosion of them recently and I do find the standard, pretty girl, day after day, repetitive selfie kind of pointless. A picture should say something. I don’t mind them as long as they serve to do more than remind me that someone who was pretty yesterday, is still pretty today.
Do you like having your photo taken?
No. I hate it. I feel awkward in a matter of seconds. I’m also something of a back seat driver. I find other people taking pictures of me excruciating because they faff around so much. I tend to shout instructions and I’m sure this must be annoying. I can’t help it. I should protest less because I am actually in very few photographs. My family album is one sided.
You refer to your son and your dog collectively as ‘the kids’. What do you think are the biggest similarities and difference between human babies and fur babies?
Well at the moment the fur baby has way more manners than the human one. He is more hygienic, eats less, is easier to travel with, makes less noise, wakes up later and creates less mess. It’s an interesting dynamic between the pair of them at the moment. Until recently Baxter was still the smart one. The brains of the operation if you will. Every day now Jarvis learns more and it’s fascinating to watch their changing relationship. Baxter adores Jarvis and won’t get out of bed until he hears him.
When Jarvis is old enough to start dating, will you use his baby photos to embarrass him?
I think I probably will but I do often wonder what will come of all this Instagram/social networking stuff. At some point, certainly before school, I will have to remove certain photographs because it wouldn’t be fair to him. When I was at school no one would have ever seen a photograph of me, let alone my entire family. It’s such uncharted territory for my generation. The world is much bigger and more complicated now. I’ll definitely keep them to show his girlfriends though, it would be rude not to.
If you could revisit your past with a camera, what’s the one moment you’d capture that you didn’t at the time?
It would be a whole era probably. In the late eighties and early nineties I lived in Manchester. I was in a band and I knew a lot of the other bands around at the time. It was a really important time in terms of youth/popular culture and I didn’t even own a camera. I had access to some amazing moments and it didn’t occur to me to record them. I guess this is part of being young and thinking that it will last forever. I recently bought a book by Kevin Cummins, who had documented this period and the period leading up to it beautifully. It’s a book I really envy. If only smart phones had existed back then.
Twitter + Instagram @gezgethings