“I think that every dog is special,” the photographer Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek tells me. For his latest annual calendar, Doggystyle, he enlisted the help of all manner of dogs–big dogs, small dogs, fluffy dogs, and velvety dogs–to create tableaux vivants of canines doing human things: painting, playing pool, lifting weights, reading Tarot cards, and taking an important phone call at the office.
The artist’s own dog, Limo, is Mr. October, pictured working out on his rowing machine. “We work together a lot, and I really enjoy the creative exchange between us,” De Koekkoek says of their ongoing collaboration. Those familiar with De Koekkoek’s now-legendary calendars, which have featured cats and alpacas, will recognize his sense of humor and passion for animals.
“I really love animals and it’s always both a joy and a struggle working with them,” he admits. “It’s a challenge and so much fun. I love this non-verbal communication where every gesture counts. I’m shooting mostly people throughout the year on commercial assignments. But when it comes to my calendar and personal work, I really like to have a pause from people.”
The dogs also enjoyed the sessions. While Limo, the artist’s longtime muse, was used to sitting for the camera, others found themselves posing for the first time. Charlie, Mr. February, probably had the most fun of them all. “He did enjoy the flute a bit too much,” De Koekkoek admits. That is, he preferred to chew rather than play the instrument. Understandable, given that Charlie was the youngest of the cast at just seven months old. Sam, Mr. January, is the most senior, at thirteen years.
On the human side, the creative team also included stylists Neslihan Degerli and Enlil Isik, who helped bring the canine characters to life, set designer Marcus Vinicius de Queiroz, and producer Valentin Haring. Tim Rudle did the graphic design; Francis Salvator wrote the copy, and Julian Sellmeister, aka Yung Hurn, contributed a poem. “For this project, I asked my assistant Valentin Haaring to be our hand model,” the photographer explains. “He has super long arms and really nice hands. Also, he was super lovely to the dogs and could gain their trust within seconds. Thank you, Valentin!”
After a particularly surreal two years, Doggystyle promises a 2022 filled with more joy, tail wags, laughs, and hope—albeit with a hint of the bizarre and fanciful. For those of us who relied on our dogs more than ever during the pandemic, it’s one more reminder of how animals can help us celebrate the good times and lift our spirits during the hard ones. “We didn’t choose any special breed or fancy dog,” de Koekkoek tells us. “They are mostly mixed street dogs and just normal dogs–but with a very big and warm heart.”