- Johanna Siegmann
Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Adventures in shooting big men with little chicks
I've decided to start blogging again. It only seems logical, as I get so many questions about my "peeps and pets" shoots. I'll talk about the adventures of each shoot - as every one is has its own challenges, and each one is as unique as its subjects.
In the aftermath of breast cancer, I was reeling with having to reinvent myself. For 3 years I struggled to find my "new normal". Then, during a headshot session with a friend where she asked me to photograph her with her old dog, I rediscovered my spark. For some reason, that tender interaction between person and pet moved me to my very core. I expanded on the subject matter as part of a photography class in 2010, at the Los Angeles Center of Photography. This series - which has become my signature work - debuted as an exhibit of our work from the class.
This image was "officially" my very first pet portrait session. Although my first peeps-and-pets IDEA was with Carl Hunter - aka The Chicken Man (a post on him to follow). Carl provided the baby chicks for THIS shoot. I met him a few years earlier at a Blessing of the Animals at a local church, where he attended with a few of his hens. Carl was my chick supplier, chick wrangler, and eventually also one of my models. THIS model is Victor, my sweetie’s nephew.
When I asked Carl if he had baby chicks I could borrow, his first question was "what color do you need?" Frankly, it had never occurred to me that chicks came in a variety of colors (of course they do), since the quintessential chick is always yellow. Isn't it? But I decided to get a chocolate one and a vanilla one, just in case.
Carl arrived with a small, covered crate, from which teeny peeping sounds emerged. It was precious. One little fuzzy chocolate chick, one vanilla. Victor was… apprehensive. But game.
We tried a couple of set-ups with Victor sitting on the floor (I didn't want the chicks to get hurt if they fell off his shoulder). Our first model up was Mr. Vanilla, and we put him on Victor's shoulder. Which was when we learned that when the little fuzzy critters are separated, the soft, adorable little chirping sounds become foghorn blasts. Which they generate for as long as they are separated. How such a tiny thing can be SO loud is one of the mysteries of the Universe.
This image captured the mighty little puffball between said blasts, which is why he looks so peaceful.
I’m afraid Victor may have lost some hearing that day.