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  • Johanna Siegmann

Great Dames

My session with Mel Gorham and her spectacular Great Dane, Isabella, was a pivotal one in my photography career. It was during this session that I recognized I had actual skills, and realized that if I could visualize the image, I could make it happen.

I brought ALL my gear with me, even my two 9 ft backdrops. It was my first time working with a hair/make-up artist – the brilliant and highly accomplished Sugano, who is now doing voice-overs. She was recommended by another friend, but was trying to retire. Then she saw something in my work, and decided mine would be the one more project she'd do. I'm so grateful to her, and her encouragement. She kept calling me the new Annie Leibovitz - I am humbled by the comparison. Sugano and I had so much fun working together, and the results were so wonderful, that we ended up working several more times after this.

We planned on 5 different looks for Mel, which we did over the course of five hours – my longest session ever. I shoot very quickly - mostly because I know exactly what I'm going for. My setups take the longest, and the actual shooting with the animals is a mere minute or two. Sessions are normally no longer than an hour, all told.

While Isabella was an absolute delight to hang out with, she thought the strobes were evil and barked protectively every time they flashed. It was a very loud session…

I had a very specific image in my mind which I wanted to capture with these two wonderful ladies. It was during the second set-up of the day. And although Isabella was still pretty leery of the strobes, she had settled down into a quieter, protective mode. When she started leaning on Mel, my heart started racing because I could see that my vision was about to become reality. Having Isabella actually sit on the ottoman was a fortuitous, unexpected bonus.

Being prepared is the foundation of my work, so that when magic happens, I'm able to give it a chance to shine. “Great Dames” was my first image to be published on 1x – a highly regarded photography website – and became my most popular image. Mel recalls that Isabella was very, very heavy.


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Your Bud Bob
Oct 15, 2019

Is that a protective look or what?


Oct 14, 2019

Lovely, lovely image. One of my faves. I love to "hear" the backstory.

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