Photographer Randal Ford Captures Some Good Dogs

Local artist finds the soul of show dogs and mutts alike


"Franklin" (Photo by Randal Ford)

Some photographers might bristle at the prospect of working with a Bengal tiger, a grizzly bear, and an African elephant in a contained studio. But for professional portraitist Randal Ford, shoots like these are just another day at the office. The Texas native has spent over a decade artfully capturing beasts of all shapes and sizes, including exotic creatures like black leopards, chimpanzees, lions, sloths, and many more.

Shortly after graduating from Texas A&M's business school, Ford became interested in shooting portraits of animals while working on an ad campaign for a farming magazine in rural Texas, where he was asked to shoot intimate photos of dairy cows. "They wanted to photograph these cows with a bright colored background, kind of like how I was photographing people at the time," he says about the project. "They wanted to really humanize them and show off their soul and their personality, so to speak."

This visible personality is one of the unique qualities of Ford's approach – he rejects traditional conventions of outdoor wilderness or nature photography, instead choosing to shoot these animals as if they were human subjects, in a brightly lit studio, looking directly into the camera lens. "I've always loved animals, but I've never wanted to be like the Nat Geo guy that goes out into the wild and takes photographs, it just wasn't my thing." He explains the reasoning behind choosing this particular portraiture style: "I got into photography because I loved creating an image, more than just keeping it. So I like bringing all these elements together to create this portrait instead of just capturing a picture of somebody or some animal." Depending on the animal, Ford often works with a large team of trainers and on-set crew to help create the final product.

Ford has built an illustrious career shooting covers for Texas Monthly and Time magazine, as well as material for various advertising campaigns. His newest project showcases 150 different breeds of dog in a 188-page book much like his first photography book, The Animal Kingdom, which featured 150 images of different wild animal species. While his last book was a lengthy process made up of photographs taken over a period of 10 years, Good Dog was shot over just six quick weeks across three cities (Austin, Dallas, and Los Angeles). It features a mixture of professionally trained, rescue, pet, and therapy dogs, along with a portrait of Ford's own pet, a labradoodle named Rosie, as well as a surprise Easter egg portrait of his cat (the only non-canine animal in the book).

Through his art, Ford hopes to convey the sense of intimate connection that he feels animals – particularly dogs – share with humankind. "I think if there's one really important thing about my work, it's that it's meant to engage the viewer. We're meant to look into these animal portraits and see something that moves us, see the essence of these animals, and, I also think, see the essence of ourselves."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Naomi Brady
Gift Ideas for the Austin-Loving Cinephile in Your Life
Gift Ideas for the Austin-Loving Cinephile in Your Life
From the big and small screens to your giftee

Dec. 4, 2020

Austin Polish Film Festival Goes Hybrid for 2020
Austin Polish Film Festival Goes Hybrid for 2020
The extended festival takes a virtual look at Warsaw

Nov. 27, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Randal Ford, Good Dogs

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle