Five pro photographers advancing the art of furry documentary.
by Patch O'Furr
Fursuit portraiture is getting ambitious. It’s more than an inward-focused service just to make con-goers happy. It’s starting to be treated as documentary art to publish and put in galleries.
These photographers often give special focus to fursuiters, a sub-section of this subculture. Furry is about more than costumes, but it makes sense to emphasize their unique, non-replaceable fuzzy glamor. News media puts them in front of every furry story because it answers a “show, don’t tell” challenge.
The photo subjects come with fixed expressions, designed by their makers. Performance brings them to life. It’s a challenge to avoid stageyness in flat images of a tactile experience. The best photographers do it by putting something personal in the relationship – a signature approach.
Fursuit-makers don’t require outside notice to be cool. But this work isn’t “ogling”, it’s inspired from within. It’s win-win for both sides.
Here’s five photographers earning notice for their Furry documentary art. Update: added a sixth at bottom. (This is a nonprofit blog only sharing to promote artists- send questions here.)
Project- “Further Confessions.” Gallery show opens in San Francisco On November 7, 2014.
He’s a staff photographer for the Burning Man organization, based in Sausalito, CA, with 30 years of experience. Find him at Lenscraft.com.
Signature approach- Personality. Ron’s furry portraits are part of a focus on passion-based “tribes” that are connected by the internet. He avoids treating them as “freaks”, and aims to show them as people, and how they think in handwritten messages they add to their images.
Project- “Conventional Wisdom.” His Anthrocon photoshoot was highlighted at Coolhunting, and a photo book is the goal.
He’s an Emmy Award-winning writer and director of television documentaries, including the A&E series “Civil War Journal”, who has been published and exhibited since 1980. Site: Arthurdrooker.com.
Signature approach- Scope. Drooker’s book-in-progress will focus on human gatherings as part of nature – like herds of animals – showing the fascination of unusual human behavior at eccentric conventions. He’s covered Furries, Santas, Clowns, Reenactors, Bronies, Ventriloquists, Taxidermists, and Lincolns.
Project- “At Home With the Furries.” Work is published to his blog, see recent post from 10/8/14.
Editorial and commercial photographer based in London, UK. Tombroadbent.com.
Signature approach- whimsy. He creates absurd contrast in scenes of fantastic creatures doing every day domestic activities.
Project- “Furries: Enacting Animal Anthropomorphism.” Book published by University of Plymouth Press in 2012.
She’s a Romanian PhD candidate and Master in Cultural Studies and Photography. She’s concerned with identity and beliefs in shifting societies, and has studied furries, tourist culture, construction workers, and maximum security penitentiaries. Carmendobrephotography.blogspot.com
Signature approach: Composition. Dobre uses 360° panorama photography in “The first colour illustrated book featuring an international cross-section of individuals who choose to dress as animals”. The panoramas make “a spatial continuum of various ordinary objects”, where “the person wearing a fursuit appears even more striking than a portrait or a narrow shot would allow.” She says Furry photo subjects represent “a Western tend of self-reinvention”.
Project – “Furry Doc,” AKA “Funny Animal People.” Published to his Tumblr blog, aiming for travel grants and art documentary book.
Recent grad of Maryland Institute College of Art, in Baltimore. Non-furry work: tommybruce.tumblr.com.
Signature approach: intimacy. Bruce makes documentary from personal relationships as a participant within the subculture, in situations not open for outsiders including plenty out of costume. He explains here, and here: “I’m trying to build an environment to view my work where the viewer is beyond shock value. I want to help viewers to empathize with my subjects.”
(The same interview covers some of my opening comments:)
MA: Fursuits are of course the most publicly visible aspect of the fandom, and they’re a major focus of your documentary. Is it challenging directing subjects with masks with a static expression for photo shoots?
TB: (Laughter) I go back and forth on how I feel about the dominance that fursuits hold in my photographs of the community. On the one hand, I know that furry culture isn’t all about fursuits. On the other, I know that fursuits are probably the most visually unique and perplexing element of the community, as compared to what the rest of the world may offer.
Update: Jake Warga makes six.