A new social media and ad campaign for a pit bull rescue organization features both witty setups and unusually high production values. When Sarah Reategui, founder of Lovers Not Fighters Pit Bull Rescue in Portland, Oregon, wanted to to publicize her organization, she reached out to Daniel Fickle. Fickle, founder of creative agency Two Penguins, whose portfolio had just the right amount of sophistication and humor, was the right guy for the job. Impressed (and a bit surprised) by the effort and art direction that went into the images, we asked Fickle to tell us more the campaign, as well as how he balances his workload.
Photo District News: What was the inspiration for the Lovers Not Fighters campaign images?
Daniel Fickle: The goal was to demystify the aggressive stereotypes of pit bulls by showing them with a muscular, bearded man doing cute, humorous and endearing things while still maintaining a slightly sophisticated sex appeal. All the dogs were complete sweethearts and so much fun having on set.
Courtney Eck (Partner/Creative Director at Two Penguins) and I came up with a handful of concepts, knowing we’d shoot four setups. We wanted something that felt a little elegant, but still approachable. After many calls to hotels around Portland which wouldn’t allow animals or asked for a rather large location fee, River’s Edge Hotel and Spa agreed to do it for the nightly cost of the hotel suite.
PDN: So you had to shoot everything in one day?
DF: Yep, the shoot was about 10 hours total. We rotated the dogs in with each setup and typically let the dogs acclimate to everyone for about 20-30 minutes before bringing them on set.
PDN:Let’s discuss the production aspect. How many people were involved?
DF: Sarah Reategui, executive director and founder of Lovers Not Fighters; David Cicil, model; Sara Henry, props & set design, Kenneth Burgoon, photo assistant; Kyle Simmons and Jaret Ferratusco, production assistants.
Sarah approached David to see if he’d model for the campaign. He’s a lover of dogs, so he said yes. Next up was to cast dogs that actually were rescued through Lovers Not Fighters. The main thing was to cast dogs that wouldn’t get too distracted or upset with the usage of strobe lights and a bunch of people working around them. Luckily Sarah develops a strong relationship with every adopter of her dogs. After that, Sara and I discussed set design and props based on each setup.
PDN: What were some of the challenges, and what was the most difficult shot?
DF: The most challenging setup was the dog birthday party [Slide 4] – 2 dogs, a cake tempting the dogs, balloons (which many dogs do not like), party props on the table and a bunch of confetti flying around. We decided to shoot that setup first.
This was my first shoot working with dogs on this scale of a production. I’d shot with dogs before, but more on-location and with less crew. It’s crucial to spend some down time in between setups just getting to know each dog and it’s owner because you’re working with and directing both for the duration of the shoot. Every dog and it’s owner were very different than the next, which was a fun challenge.
PDN: You’re a still photographer as well as director, founder of a production company, and split your time between two cities? How do you manage everything?
DF: I began Two Penguins in 2008 with a primary focus on motion work. I handled everything solo from producing, directing, shooting, editing, etc. I began TP essentially as a way to create work rather than wait for that call or email about a job as a freelancer. It wasn’t easy, as I was bootstrapping the company with no real money or investors. I learned just enough about web development to create a scrappy website and I had a few connections, mainly at GQ, that helped TP become a real company.
There’s no way I could manage everything if I didn’t have a great team of people. With the team at TP, I can focus a lot more of my efforts on still photography and directing. At the moment, about 70 percent of my time is spent working in video and 30 percent on stills. Around a 50/50 split between the two is the ultimate goal.
I spend a collective of around four months of my year in New York City and eight months in Portland. I have two daughters who live and go to school in Portland, but most of my work is in New York City, so it’s a matter of spending as much time with them as possible, even if it means flying to and from New York City twice or more in a month.