In the photo world I am sometimes referred to as a "Prop Stylist". What this means is that In addition to designing large sets and the overall look of things, I am sometimes also responsible for bringing and arranging the smaller items that an actor or model would have around them in the world that we are creating.
Usually a "prop" is designated as anything that the talent touches or interacts with during the shoot. For example a book they pick up, a telephone they answer or food they eat would all be considered props. On the rare occasion I get asked to bring an animal in to use as a prop. I LOVE THESE OCCASIONS. Cute puppies, kittens, rabbits, monkeys --- you name it I've "propped" it. Last week I was asked to bring in an exotic, domestic, kitten to use for a shoe and handbag catalog.
I made a few calls and I found Simba, a gorgeous, 5 month old Savannah Kitten.
She is new to the business, this was her first official shoot, but she was immediately a star.
Although the animals are working, they are always well cared for. A lot of patience is required because it can take a while for them to do what is needed. And when the animal is finished for the day it will let you know it and that is that. The trainers I work with are all very professional and treat the animals with a lot love and respect.
Below are a few pics of my favorite animal requests that I've had to arrange.
The chimpanzee was for a story in GQ ... the one I'm holding is a baby, she's only 3 years old. As chimps get older they get much stronger and much more aggressive, we had an older, male chimp on set who we were not allowed to interact with. We had to avoid eye contact so as not to accidentally upset him. They were very much like working with children, they understood what was asked of them and would get rewarded with a bit of root beer after a job well done.
The Lion was trucked from from a reserve in North Carolina to a studio in New York. This was one prop that I didn't want to hold. Although Drew got pretty close to the cat, this actual picture was manipulated in photoshop, she sat closer to the tail away from mouth and jaw. The large chains around the neck were also taken out digitally. Working with a lion means the lion is the boss --- the lion does what it wants when it wants, we just hoped to get a good shot out of it.
The Dolphins were for a Teen Vogue story. We went to them (it's really hard to get dolphins into a photo studio) -- we shot this at an aquarium in Miami.
Yes, that is a real bird sitting in Russel's nest of a hairdo. It's actually a white pigeon which is most commonly used as a white dove. Getting the bird for this shoot was the easy part. Convincing Russel to let us put it on his head was a little more difficult. In the end he was a good sport.