Dog Ride from the series, The Dogs at The Parker, by Gray Malin.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY GRAY MALIN
Photographs of dogs make us stop in our tracks, whether we’re surfing on the Internet or browsing a store. If you have owned a dog, you’re caught by the possibility that the breed in the photograph looks like the one you own or once owned. Or you’re simply dog-struck.
Gray Malin hopes it’s all of those. The artistic photographer is back at it again. Seven years ago he presented a 14-image series of animals you might likely see at The Living Desert, but they were posed around the Parker Palm Springs property like a monkey hanging out at the bar or a zebra playing hide and seek.
He recently returned to his favorite place to escape, the Parker, and brought with him a set of canines worthy of appearing in Dogs at The Parker. Prior to Palm Springs, Malin shot similar dog series' in Aspen, Colorado, New York City, and Beverly Hills.
The Parker Palm Springs, however, is where he has found his doghouse.
“The Parker has been my longtime favorite hotel in Palm Springs and the perfect weekend escape from Los Angeles,” he says. “The playful grounds are beautiful and just give ample breath to one’s imagination. The entire vision for both this series and the animal collection was to create a fantasy world where the dogs and animals were guests and employees of the Parker hotel, enjoying all the beautiful locations on the property. Both collections have a fun and playful vibe, and a whimsical and imaginative spirit. I love creating whimsical moments that make people stop for a second look, and there is definitely something about having an unexpected animal in an unexpected place that delivers that moment. I also love the Parker’s impeccable classic midcentury modern design, which is a consistent theme of my vintage-inspired photography.”
Malin chats further with Palm Springs Life about the challenges with animal shoots and what is his favorite shot from this new series.
Afternoon Croquet Vertical, Gray Malin's favorite photo from the Parker series.
Did you have the idea for the "Dogs at the Parker" when you photographed animals at the hotel in 2014-15? If not, what inspired it?
The Parker is one of my favorite hotels in one of my favorite vacation spots. Following my original Parker animal shoots, I wanted to bring to life another playful experience at this iconic hotel, but this time instead of animals, I switched my focus to dogs.
I have owned dogs my entire life and am a true dog lover. Since my animal shoots at the Parker, over the years I have often included dogs in some of my stylized lifestyle images, such as in my Aspen and Palm Beach series. The popularity of these images led to me to create my first ever project featuring a variety of dogs living at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The series came out last fall and quickly became extremely popular. After the positive feedback, I decided to continue with the theme and do my next dog project in New York City, where dogs have such a unique and joyful role in city life, which led to the Dogs of New York City collection.
Where did you find the dogs to pose?
We cast the dogs from private owners and had professional trainers on site to assist with keeping the dogs both happy and taken care of. Luckily, the dogs were exceptionally well behaved and excellently trained so it was truly a pleasure working with them – and always a lot of fun too!
What were some of the challenges you faced?
Patience is key and you have to be willing to be flexible. Sometimes what you hope will work just is not realistic and only being on site with the dogs can help you realize that. You have to be very respectful of these animals and pivot when they are giving you an indication that something isn’t working. Luckily sometimes these unplanned moments then make the best images in the end so I always leave room for unexpected scenarios and new ideas during my shoots.
The locations you picked in the hotel — why were they good for dogs to be photographed at?
The entire hotel perfectly curates a contemporary yet playful experience that draws on classic mid-century modern design, which is a consistent theme of my vintage-inspired photography. From the stunning entrance to the colorful lobby to the lovely pool & lemonade stand (with my favorite yellow striped umbrellas) and of course to Norma’s – all these spots made such perfect canvases and backdrops for the dogs to enjoy a dreamy escape.
What do animals show to the camera that makes them good to be photographed?
I love creating whimsical moments that make people stop for a second look, and there is definitely something about having an unexpected animal in an unexpected place that delivers that moment. I also find that dogs and animals are universally loved and evoke joy so that alone really makes them the perfect subject.
Do you have a favorite shot among the ones you took and why?
There were two funny moments that took place while capturing Afternoon Croquet, Parker Palm Springs. The adorable dachshund that is up on the bar cart being pushed by the poodle, was posing on the cart with the croquet mallet leaning against it, and right on cue he actually balanced his paw by placing it up on the mallet as if he were playing the game! Additionally, the Golden Retriever was the only dog who could fit the croquet ball in his mouth - so he proudly walked around holding on to it. I love how this image turned out and it really captures the essence of the entire collection.
Are photographs from this series hanging at the hotel right now, and for how long?
There are a couple images from the series that are currently displayed in the lobby and of course I hope they hang there forever!
Do you expect to come back to the Parker with another series?
At this time I am focused on expanding the dogs collections to other unique locations but I would always welcome the opportunity to shoot more work at the Parker as I continue to be incredibly inspired by the design, grounds, and experience of staying there.
What are you working on now?
I am shooting dogs in both Palm Beach and Paris this summer and busy casting dogs, selecting props, and planning logistics with my team.