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Cameron Woo

Cameron Woo is The Bark's co-founder and publisher.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Seth Casteel’s Underwater Dogs
The story behind those sensational photographs
Underwater Dogs

The overnight sensation of Seth Casteel’s breathtaking photographs of diving dogs is a publicist’s dream — the stunning photos went viral and now have been seen by millions, gaining notoriety and admiration for the photographer, bringing offers for licensing and business deals, and a book contract from Little, Brown. Casteel’s collection of photographs entitled Underwater Dogs will arrive this fall. Behind every great picture is a story, and we talked to Casteel about his journey from pet portraitist to viral phenomenon.

How did the photos get introduced online? Was it your goal for them to go viral?
The underwater photos were already online—on my Facebook page and my website (littlefriendsphoto.com). Somebody snagged one of the photos and reposted it on Reddit or Google+. The ripple effect that followed was just out of control! I could not have even dreamed something like this was even possible. People ask me, “How do you go viral? I want to go viral!.” I don’t think this is something you can really control or plan—I mean, I had absolutely nothing to do with it. Unexpectedly, millions of people connected with these photos.

The reach of these photos is unbelievable. At one point, UNDERWATER DOGS was the number one World News Headline in some countries—number one! That is just ridiculous! (laughs) Sometimes the news can be so negative. It was cool to see something so simple, silly and positive in the headlines. The greatest thing about this entire situation is knowing that these photos make people smile. That is something I'll never forget.

I've seen a few accounts written about your surprise at the rapid exposure—can you share your reaction in those early hours-days as the photos went viral?

My website crashed big time. It was set up on a shared server and I was only allowed a limited number of concurrent connections. My site used to get about 200 unique visitors a day. All of the sudden, there were hundreds of thousands. Crash!! I was caught off-guard! A good problem to have though …

On the evening of February 9th, I received a few e-mails that my photos were posted on Reddit and Google. I dozed off and then woke up to various phone calls at 3 am on February 10th. People and journalists were calling from all over the world. Some were photo agencies that wanted to represent my portfolio. I was obviously confused! I checked my website analytics for that morning and was already at 35,000 hits in just a couple of hours. I checked my bank account and thought there had been a mistake—I had received dozens of print orders overnight, from countries all over the world!

The power of the Internet is so incredible. I need to send the World Wide Web some flowers and a thank you card!

Tell me how the book came to be? And how you've worked with your editor to craft it?
It’s a dream come true! Long story short—after the photos went viral, various literary agents inquired about representing an underwater dogs book project. I chose an agent. We crafted a book proposal together. Proposal was sent out. Bites from nearly all of the top ten publishers in the world. Book goes to auction. Book sells. I took off on my book adventure, working with another 125 dogs underwater all across the country! Selected the winning shots with my editor. The book is currently in design phase. Whew!

The images are so rich and colorful, you must be excited about seeing them in print, in a book, in a single collection. Are there some new things in the book we haven't seen!
Oh, man! You bet I am! I am especially excited about the new, never-before-seen photos I've been working on. A Pug. A 12-week-old puppy. A Wolf. And many other surprises! The only tricky thing was deciding which shots would be in the book. I have so many now, but with the help of my editor and agent, we were able to choose. I couldn't be happier about the final collection.

You must shoot dozens, hundreds of shots to get one you are happy with. Must be a long day's work for you and a great play session for the dogs ...?
It really depends on the dog. Sometimes I just need a few dozen shots. Sometimes I need hundreds. Photographing dogs underwater is completely unpredictable. There are so many variables that you have no control over. To capture that special moment, not only does it actually have to happen, but I have to make sure the camera is in the right place, focus is achieved and there aren’t too many bubbles in the water to block the scene. The one variable that I can usually count on is the toy. I can throw the toy where I want it to be, or I can even just place it in the water. One of the most difficult shoots I have done is with a Cocker Spaniel named Oshi. Oshi was only interested in one toy and one toy only—pirate penguin. It’s a toy for kids, I believe it’s meant for the bathtub. It’s a battery operated penguin, dressed up as a pirate, and it propels through the water. The path is uncertain as it sporadically zips through the water, left, right, up, down. Oshi loves it! So I had to chase Pirate Penguin with Oshi! It was a super challenge, but the photos are hysterical!

How close do you need to be to the dogs to get the kinds of shots that you capture?
CLOSE. A few feet. A few inches. The closer the better. The working distance is one of the biggest challenges, but also the reason why the photos have such an impact.

Purchasing the kind of topline photo equipment that you use for underwater photography is no small investment, how confident (or nervous) were you about jumping into something so new and uncharted for you?
At first, I was a bit nervous about the situation. If the housing failed, we're talking about thousands of dollars. This was my one-shot. I’m not sure how I could have purchased another one. I was already avoiding bills to pay for the first one! As I began to spend more time in the water, my confidence grew. And of course, once my confidence was at the top, my port was crushed in the pool, flooding my housing, but miraculously I was able to remove the housing from the water before the camera was destroyed. It got a little bit wet, but still works just fine!

You also have a non-profit, Second Chance Photos. Can you tell us your plans with that?
The mission of Second Chance is to increase adoption rates of homeless pets through photography and marketing, as well as improving the overall image of rescue and adoption. Because of the popularity of the underwater photos, I am now able to partner with other non-profits to expand the efforts of Second Chance—I’m so excited! My career as a pet photographer began through volunteering. I am grateful I have been able to find a way to help our little friends. 

Underwater Dogs Photos Copyright © Seth Casteel

Culture: DogPatch
Whittling Dogs
Whittling / Painting

Whittling is a great pastime, and it’s easy to get started—all you need is a knife and a piece of wood. Follow these simple tips and you’ll be on your way to a satisfying summer project.

Materials
Soft woods are the best—white pine, sugar pine and basswood are good choices for beginners. Find a piece of wood with straight grain that can fit comfortably in your hand, avoid wood with lots of knots.

Your knife should have a sharp 1-1/2 to 3 inch blade, a standard pocket knife will do in most cases. Keep your knife sharp throughout your project. A dull knife is more dangerous because you will need to push harder to make a cut, with less predictable results—if you slip the added force can do some damage. You can also use a special woodcarving knife, specifically designed for whittling, available at most hobby stores.

Whittling Cuts
Here are some common whittling cuts: The pare cut or pull stroke, one of the simplest and most common, is like taking a paring knife and peeling vegetables. The push stroke is made by pushing the blade away from you, this technique can be used in roughing out your project’s general shape and, later, with smaller shaving cuts to achieve finer detail. The V-cut or channel is used to show detail in your carving in the form of hair or scales and uses the point of the knife.

Whittling Tips
- Take it slow and concentrate. Though whittling is a relaxing, meditative activity, it requires focused attention. Carelessness can cause accidents!
- Make small cuts that you can control. Remember, it’s easier to remove wood with a series of small cuts than to add it back once it’s removed.
- You generally want to cut with the grain of the wood, for ease and best results.
- Relax your grip, holding your knife too tightly will quickly tire your hand out, and may lead to stress injury.
- Consider wearing a glove to start in order to stave off cuts and injury. If this is too cumbersome, try using a thumb pad or protector—the thumb on your knife-holding hand tends to get the brunt of the nicks and glances. A little duct tape around your thumb will also do the trick.
- Be prepared, keep a first aid kit handy just in case you need it.

For some fun patterns of dogs, see these examples from the 1945 how-to manual Whittling Is Easy, made popular by generations of Boy Scouts. When you finish your project, we’d love to see it—take a photo and e-mail it to contests@thebark.com.

Check out the wonderful, miniature world of whittler, Steve Tomashek, in this video:

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Printing as Art & Craft

A dog sprawls comfortably, relaxed despite the clatter and thump of a nearby printing press. The smell of ink fills the air as a skilled craftsperson rolls a layer of pigment onto the printing plate, then checks the position of the paper.

While this scene could be from the 16th century, it’s being enacted daily across the country as a new generation of artists and entrepreneurs embrace the tactile, handcrafted quality of letterpress printing. Similar to artisan movements in cooking, design and fashion, the craft of printing is experiencing a revival of traditional techniques. Dogs enter the picture—often literally—not only as shop companions but also as muses. At Hound Dog Press, BirdDog Press and Paisley Dog Press, canine-inspired cards, posters and stationery are carefully pulled the old-fashioned way, using a type of press that Benjamin Franklin would likely recognize.

When Johannes Gutenberg invented moveable type and the wooden printing press in the mid-15th century, he started a revolution, and the technology he created prevailed for four centuries. At its finest, the process combines metal, ink and paper to create a three-dimensional effect: metal type presses ink into the paper, depositing it only on the floor of the impression and leaving the walls clean. A rich texture of light and shadow gives letterpress printing its unique beauty.

With the invention of commercial offset lithography (the method by which The Bark is printed) in 1904, letterpress gradually fell out of favor as customers migrated to a faster, cheaper form of printing. But fine letterpress printing has never completely gone away. New practitioners, respectful of tradition, are bringing fresh aesthetics and inventive techniques to the medium, evolving letterpress into something new.

Many of their working presses were built over a century ago and are operated by levers and wheels; type is set by hand, one character and space and dingbat at time. Little has changed, including the shop dogs who keep the pressmen and women company. Like the lucky dogs they are, they remind us that sometimes, what is discarded or lost can find its way back into our hearts.

News: Editors
Dugald Stermer, Bark Cover Artist, Dies

We were saddened to hear that one-time Bark contributor Dugald Stermer passed away last Friday at the age of 74. Stermer was the art director of Ramparts magazine (1964-1970), the highly influential counterculture publication that contributed to the wave of New Journalism and inventive, powerful design and illustration. As an illustrator, Stermer became known for his classical drawings, ranging from Jerry Garcia to endangered animals and flora. He was the rare, gifted artist who used his creative talents for the public good. Stermer walked the walk.

Back in 2001, when The Bark used exclusively illustration for cover art, we sought out Stermer, hoping that he might find kinship with a fledgling indie magazine, and give us permission to use a drawing he had stowed away in a drawer. He insisted that he create a new drawing, a portrait of Spenser, his daughter Megan’s dog. A week later he sent us the drawing, an exquisite likeness of a grinning, bandanna-wearing mutt. “Spenser” was written in the artist’s trademark hand lettering below, and surrounding the portrait were references to Spenser’s proposed lineage—Chesapeake Bay Retriever? Poodle? Irish Wolfhound? It was both delightful and delicate in its rendering. We were honored to have Stermer’s work grace our pages.

As I read his obituary in the New York Times, and in more personal blog tributes and comments, one passage rang true. In a 2010 interview, Stermer was asked about his career. “As [San Francisco advertising legend who introduced Stermer to Ramparts] Howard Gossage used to say, ‘The only fit work for an adult is to change the world.’ He said it straight-faced, and while other people might laugh, I always have that in the back of my mind. I don’t walk around with my heart on my sleeve, but I do feel that using our abilities to make things better is a pretty good way of spending a life.”

Culture: DogPatch
Masterwork: Young Man and Woman in an Inn by Frans Hals
Young Man and Woman in an Inn

Frans Hals (1582 – 1666), the celebrated portraitist and genre painter, together with Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer comprise the pantheon of Dutch painting’s “Golden Age.” Hals’ subjects were the bourgeois of Haarlem, a hub of a new 17th-century Dutch economy. His colorful characters were painted with a vibrant palette and bold brushwork unseen in realist painting. Unlike the somber dignity found in Rembrandt or the contemplative interiors of Vermeer, Hals paintings radiate an exuberance in style and composition. He is at his best when he combines portraiture with genre painting, as he does in Young Man and Woman in an Inn (1623). Popularly known since the eighteenth century as Yonker Ramp and His Sweetheart, it is one of Hals most important works, an examination of “everyday life” or the depiction of modern manners and mores. The painting shows a brief encounter in a tavern between a young man and woman. Yonker is an English rendering of Jonker or Jonkheer, which means “Young Gentleman.” The young man depicted here was considered to resemble Pieter Ramp, the ensign in the background of another Hals painting Banquet of the Officers of the Saint Hadrian Civic Guard Company (Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem) of about 1627. The Yonker here raises his glass in celebration as the woman, arm around his shoulder vies for his attention. Her rival is a dog (resembling a Griffon), the canine’s muzzle cupped in the hand of the Yonker, perhaps enjoying a morsel of food. The immediacy of the scene and the dazzling brushwork are remarkable. The facial expressions exude a raucous gaiety verging on caricature, while Hals’ painterly skill is in full force with his virtuoso handling of flesh, fabric and lace. The painting recalls a contemporary Dutch adage: “the nuzzle of dogs, the affection of prostitutes, and the hospitality of innkeepers: None of it comes without cost.” As demonstrated in this masterwork, Hals was not shy about portraying his subjects foolish behavior or showing the crass side of the new gentry class. Few paintings capture the personality of its subjects with such vitality and unvarnished joy—it’s as if Hals joins the Yonker and his lady friend in winking at us from the canvas.

News: Editors
New Film Realistically Portrays How We Live with Dogs
Charming Jack Russell shares the screen with Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer

Escaping the office mid-week to sit in a movie theater and watch a film—what a rare treat! Claudia and I did just that one week ago, for a special screening of a new film Beginners, written and directed by Mike Mills, and starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Mélanie Laurent. This gem of a film opens the San Francisco International Film Festival tonight, before its commercial release in early June.

  The fact that a charming little dog, a Jack Russell Terrier named Arthur, appears in nearly every scene is the reason why Bark was invited to the screening. The film is not about Arthur or dogs specifically, but people who love and live with a dog. The dog is not there for laughs or a plot device, he simply is an important part of the characters’ lives, and this natural portrayal is rare among films.   McGregor plays the son, and Plummer, the father with Laurent the son’s love interest. Beginners is an intimate, understated story of self-discovery, life, love and death … and Arthur the dog (performed by Cosmo) is omnipresent for it all. His is a sweet, affectionate performance—coaxed by Mathilde De Cagny, the trainer who gave us that other thespian JRT, Eddie of “Fraser” fame.   Claudia and I loved Beginners, it is one of the most honest and joyous films you’ll see, but also one of the quietest and most restrained. Oh yes, and thought provoking.   We have the good fortune of interviewing the Mike Mills and Ewan McGregor on Friday, and we’ll be sharing our conversation with you in our summer issue.   Check out the film’s trailer, and get a taste of their magic:

News: Editors
Maker of Special Dog Films
Remembering Robert Radnitz

The quiet passing of Robert Radnitz last week, a onetime English teacher turned movie producer should not go unnoticed. Radnitz is responsible for two fine films that prominently featured dogs—A Dog of Flanders and Sounder. With the release of his first film, A Dog of Flanders in 1959, Mr. Radnitz established his reputation as a maker of high-quality movies for children and their parents. Based on the venerable novel by Ouida, the bittersweet story of a poor Flemish boy and an abandoned dog is a classic tale of adversity, a theme that would appear often in the producer’s films. Radnitz’s greatest success was his production of Sounder in 1972, directed by Martin Ritt, and nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Screenplay, Best Actor (Paul Winfield) and Actress (Cicely Tyson). By today’s standards, Sounder may appear a tad sentimental in portraying the harshness of the subject matter—the cruel racism of 1930s American South—but the film introduced mature subject matter, intelligently and compassionately, to a young audience. I remember seeing it as a young boy in my local movie theater and being moved and angered by the injustice the film depicted. Radnitz went on to produce many films, including Island of the Blue Dolphins, My Side of the Mountain, Where Lilies Bloom, among others. As part of a joint resolution by the U.S. Congress honoring his work, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas paid him this tribute, “The films Robert Radnitz has produced touch the common thread of humanity and that’s why he’s made such a great and glorious contribution to the thing that makes our society a viable, living, vibrant whole.”

  Robert Radnitz passed away at the age of 85, Sunday night, June 6, at his Malibu home, surrounded by his devoted wife Pearl and his beloved dogs, Coco, Junior and Rosebud.  

 

News: Editors
My Dog Tulip
J.R. Ackerley’s classic memoir adapted masterfully to film

I had the good fortune of viewing a very special film at the recent San Francisco International Film Festival—an animated adaption of J.R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip. Ackerley’s memoir, first published in Britain in 1956, revolves around his 14-year relationship with an Alsatian named Tulip. The book’s perceived raunchiness, highlighted by the author’s mediations on “defecation and mating” caused quite a stir when it first debuted but over the years has found its place as one of the “greatest masterpieces of animal literature” as proclaimed by Christopher Isherwood. This humorous and often moving book is a poignant observation of a friendship that proved to be the happiest years of author’s life. The masterful animation team of Paul and Sandra Fierlinger (Still Life with Animate Dogs) have created a rare achievement, an imaginative and faithful interpretation of a literary classic. The story is firmly rooted in a time and place (postwar England) but the simple routines of man and dog (walks, poop, pee, barking) are a source of examination that dog people will truly appreciate. The complexities of the human-animal bond are explored with a thoughtfulness rarely seen. Fierlinger’s drawing/painting style is magical and surprising throughout, making the characters come to life in the most imaginative ways. The film is a refreshing break from the hyperrealism that dominates today’s animated features, with the art showing the hand of the artist in all its quirky, lively expressions—and is better for it. The Fierlingers pulls off an amazing feat by depicting different levels of reality with distinct drawings styles, thus the imagined scenes in Ackerley’s head become delightful pixie renditions executed as stick figures, but for all their simplicity are absolutely hilarious. In short, the film has soul, something I find missing in much of today’s animation. Christopher Plummer lends his superb voice to the author’s character, and the late Lynn Redgrave, as the author’s protective sister, and Isabella Rossellini, as Tulip’s comforting vet, round out a first rate production. My Dog Tulip is set for a fall release, and should be on the list of everybody who loves a good dog tale. View the trailer here.

News: Editors
Surreal Canines And Other Critters

A chance to experience first-hand the wonderful paintings of the preeminent California painter, Roy De Forest, is not to be missed. His surreal mindscapes filled with dogs, horses, birds and people resonate with bright colors, thick paint and mythic tales. De Forest is loosely grouped together with 60’s Funk art, yet his vision stands alone in its originality. His paintings attain something rare—inspiring joy, laughter, awe and sheer delight.

 

DETAILS: Painting the Big Painting runs January 8–February 28 at Brian Gross Fine Art, San Francisco, Calif.

 

Discover nine more not-to-be-missed exhibits in 2009.

 

News: Editors
10 Not-to-be-Missed Exhibits in 2009

The convergence of art and canines can yield thrilling results—a visual feast, an engaging tutorial of ideas, unadulterated fun. The new year brings a host of intriguing exhibitions to museums across the country—There’s something to satisfy every taste: the traditionalist, the modernist, the academic and even the I-don’t-like-museum types.

1. Vernacular Photography Fair; January 10–11; Santa Monica, CA
Found photography or anonymous imagery is a photographic genre that’s making inroads into museums and collections. Snapshots are a part of American life and memory, and among these rediscovered treasures, you’ll often find man’s best friend. Best of all, vernacular photography remains an affordable collectible (check out the $5 bins!), and this gathering of dealers offers a dose of nostalgic bliss.

2. Roy De Forest: Painting the Big Painting; January 8–February 28; Brian Gross Fine Art; San Francisco, CA
A chance to experience first-hand the wonderful paintings of this preeminent California painter is not to be missed. De Forest’s surreal mindscapes filled with dogs, horses, birds and people resonate with bright colors, thick paint and mythic tales. De Forest is loosely grouped together with 60’s Funk art, yet his vision stands alone in its originality. De Forest’s paintings attain something rare—inspiring joy, laughter, awe and sheer delight.

3. Pets in America; September 13, 2008–February 1; Stamford Museum & Nature Center; Stamford, CT
This thought-provoking exhibition explores the bond between people and animals, and the history of pet-keeping. The collection of more than 300 objects includes pet attire, feeding and housing implements, pet remedies, and a coat and collar made for President Roosevelt’s dog, Fala. Developed in support of research by Professor Katherine C. Grier, the show is both scholarly and entertaining, examining the impact pet-keeping has had on ideas on human nature, emotional life, individual responsibility and societal obligations.

4. The Beauty of the Beasts: Artists and their Pets in 20th-Century Art; January 7–March 16; Art Institute of Chicago; Chicago, IL
This survey includes a diverse selection of works, from Renaissance sculpture to modernists Frida Kahlo and Pablo Picasso, connected by their love of animals and works featuring their pets. See how companion dogs worked their way into the art of Caravaggio and the canvases of Pierre Bonnard, and created the phenomenon known as the Blue Dog. Yes, there are propositions on symbolism, allegories and the like, but these aesthetic mash-ups are really an excuse for some fun and surprising pairings—where else could you see Frida’s monkey share a room with Cellini’s shaggy dog?

5. Pierre Bonnard: The Late Interiors; January 27–April 19; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; New York, NY
A rare exhibition focusing on the post-Impressionist Pierre Bonnard’s (1867–1947) late interior and still life paintings. The 8o paintings, drawings and watercolors are radiant, glowing with the warmth of their Mediterranean locale. Bonnard’s beloved Dachshunds are present in a handful of the best works, curled up next to a bath, sitting at the table, asleep in a corner. These paintings capture a distant time and place, melding a Proustian sensibility with an Impressionist’s palette.

6. Dog Days Auction Sale; February 10; Bonhams New York; New York, NY
This annual event coincides with the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and features antique paintings, decorative arts and collectibles with a dog breed theme. The quality of the pieces ranges greatly—from masterwork to kitsch—but all are fascinating in their historical context if not always in their aesthetic merit. Who can resist a painting like this year’s prized item—Arthur John Elsley’s One at a Time (1901)—which depicts a Terrier and a Collie vying for the affections of a rosy-cheeked, bonneted young girl? Bonham’s hosts a popular Sunday brunch-benefit on February 8; check for other viewing opportunities and the online catalog.

7. Paws and Reflect: Art of Canines; January 31–March 29; The Spartanburg Art Museum; Spartanburg, SC; April 26–June 14, 2009;
New Visions Gallery, Marshfield, WI; July 4–August 30, 2009;
Elizabeth de C. Wilson Museum, Southern Vermont Arts Center,
Manchester, VT
This traveling exhibition, which includes paintings, watercolors and sculptures created in the realist manner, will appeal to the traditionalist art lover. Works by over 30 artists from around the country, extraordinary technique and respect for the subject matter are the themes of the day. Among the highlights are several life-size bronze sculptures.

8. It’s a Dog’s Life: Photographs by William Wegman from the Polaroid Collection; January 18–April 12; Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art; Tarpon Springs, FL
For those only familiar with Wegman’s photographs from books and magazines, these large-format images—with their saturated color and vivid detail—will be a welcome surprise.  The subjects are well-known: his Weimaraner pack of models in zany costumes, posed in studies of form and abstractionthe artist’s special brand of visual puns. The scale and presence of these oversized “instant snapshots” are impressive. The fact that Polaroid has discontinued making its trademarked film adds a particular poignancy to this exhibit.

9. Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective; May 20–August 16; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; New York, NY
The first major New York exhibition in 20 years devoted to one of the most important painters of the 20th century, this is a major event. Featuring 153 works spanning the artist’s oeuvre, it’s likely to be a rewarding and exhaustive experience. We expect to see at least a few of Bacon’s paintings of dogs based on the photographs of Eadweard Muybridge’s famous locomotion studies. The paintings are studies of malevolence, power and horror—themes the artist grappled with throughout his career. These early paintings are monumental in their dark moodiness, primal in their elicitation of emotion. Do what you can to see them.

10. Darwin: Big Idea, Big Exhibition; November 14, 2008–April 19, 2009; Natural History Museum; London, England; November 7, 2009–February 28, 2010; San Diego Natural History Museum; San Diego, CA
Celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, the great thinker whose revolutionary theory changed our understanding of the world. Besides sailing on a ship of discovery named the HMS Beagle, Darwin was a lover of dogs, and his observations of them informed his theories on evolution, species classification and animal behavior. The exhibition is rich with specimens and artifacts, including letters and publications that illustrate Darwin’s life and the lasting impact of his ideas. The seeds of canine genetics can be seen sprinkled throughout the collection. The exhibition celebrates Darwin’s birthday (February 12) and ends on the 127th anniversary of his death, moving on to the San Diego Natural History Museum.

 

Have a recommendation for a dog-themed exhibit? Share it with our readers by posting a comment below.

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