Melbourne-based photographer, director, artist and author Nicole England brings an international perspective on the love of dogs and design in Resident Dog II. We got to go behind the scenes to learn more about how the second volume came to life.
In what’s been called ‘the pupside’ of 2020, those who have a canine know just how much they’ve enjoyed our company at home; be they appearing in Zoom calls, beneath our desks while we work or keeping us motivated for our daily walks.
Nicole England taps into this special relationship with her latest publication, Resident Dog II. Following the success of her first edition of Resident Dog featuring incredible Australian architectural homes and the dogs that live there, her second volume takes an international angle. Capturing homes from the UK, US, Mexico as well as Australia, Resident Dog II features 25 of the world’s pre-eminent architecturally-designed homes and the hounds that inhabit them.
We were fortunate to speak to Nicole England about the making of Resident Dog II and be invited behind the scenes just before it’s released into the wild. In our conversation, Nicole shares what it was like to shoot these iconic homes – including the eight rescue pups that reside at Cuadra san Cristobal designed by Pritzer-prize winner Luis Barragan. Nicole also offers insight on the ‘doggie hijinks’; when Rosie ran away, who loved being behind the lens most and how stylist Natalie James worked her magic, both in the interiors and as the unofficial ‘dog whisperer’. Where each dog offers you a personal tour of their home, Nicole captures them through a poetic and playful lens.
It’s clear from our chat, just as Nicole writes in her introduction, our four-legged friends and all of their idiosyncrasies are what makes a house a home.
This feature contains images from Resident Dog II and behind the scenes footage captured on an iPhone or compact camera.
As you covered Australia, the UK, the US and Mexico, what did you learn in Resident Dog II about our four-legged friends, our relationship with them and the way they live in these homes?
Nicole England: I find that people who love dogs and design across the world are essentially all the same. They are not precious people. Even though they live in the most incredible houses in the world, their dogs are part of the family; they eat with them, sleep with them, cuddle on the couch with them, take them to work and let them run wild.
I watched a pair of dogs play fight the entire day right next to the most enviable and expensive art and sculpture collection you’ve ever seen, without breaking a thing. I watched two other dogs comfort and take care of their ill humans in-between me taking shots for the book. The relationship between dog and human is so special, they really are ‘man’s’ best friend.
What was it like to shoot some of the world’s most iconic homes?
Nicole England: Being welcomed and accepted into anybody’s private residence for a shoot is always a humbling experience. I had to pinch myself on every occasion with the homes that accepted my invitation to be a part of the second edition of the book.
At the shoots, I would sometimes get quite emotional, whether it was the overall energy of a place, or simply just listening to the architect or designer’s inspiration and design process. Once I cleared the emotion and shook off the tears, it was down to business as usual, capturing these homes as best I could and looking for the angles that perhaps hadn’t been seen before.
How did the dogs change how you felt about – or experienced – these iconic homes?
Nicole England: I’ve always said that the resident dogs help you to connect with the architecture. It doesn’t matter how iconic the architecture, how serious the homeowner or how famous the architect may be, some doggy hijinks immediately bring an element of sociability, authenticity and fun to the day. Nothing lightens the mood like a nonchalant pup walking into the frame just as you hit the shutter.
“I find that people who love dogs and design across the world are essentially all the same. They are not precious people. Even though they live in the most incredible houses in the world, their dogs are part of the family…”
– Nicole England
Favourite dog/s to shoot?
Nicole England: I love them all for different reasons. Although I must say Valentino definitely stood out for his cheekiness. Willie Wearstler for his eyes. Louis and Margot for their rolls, Miracle and Persephone for their grace and all of the playful puppies like Yrrol, Leo, Maybe, and Pious for their boundless energy and hilarious sense of humour.
Favourite house or location to shoot?
Nicole England: I couldn’t say. We always laughed because at every single house we photographed we said without a doubt, ‘this is our favourite house so far’. Then the next day we would arrive at the next house and we would say exactly the same thing.
The UK countryside was so beautiful and rich in history, Seattle had a great vibe, a bit like Melbourne, Palm Springs was fabulous architecturally, but I think my favourite place was Mexico. I’d never been to Mexico City before and even though we only stayed a few days, I’m dying to go back.
Who was the most challenging to capture?
Nicole England: The gorgeous Rosie comes to mind first. We photographed her country home in the Cotswolds earlier on in our trip. She was so excited when we arrived, not so much at our arrival or because she was being photographed for a book, but because she was in the country, with smells and sounds and space galore.
We were told to keep her on a very long leash at all times so she wouldn’t run off to explore. But during one mindless moment, while we were setting up a shot, I took her off the leash, left the door ajar, and off she went sprinting past. She looked up at me with such glee in her eyes, out the door, down the hill, around the lake and then she was gone.
Luckily we enticed her back with her favourite treats, and we could carry on with the shoot, but it was a very close call!
The most pampered pooch?
Nicole England: With a name like Foxy-lady, I think this little glamour takes the cake. She had a ‘rags to riches’ story; from the street to a penthouse apartment in Manhattan, owned and designed by Jonathan Adler.
Who loved being behind the lens most?
Nicole England: Apart from Valentino who I mentioned earlier, I would have to say Chuleta, the basset hound from Cuadra San Cristobal. The property is regularly opened up to visiting international architects and architecture students so Chuleta is used to posing and quite likes it. In fact, as soon as my camera came out Chuleta would look straight at me like ‘I’m ready’.
Could you please talk to the experience of capturing all eight rescue dogs in Cuadra san Cristobal?
Nicole England: Photographing the Cuadra san Cristobal was a very magical experience. The property was originally designed for horses and there are horses still living there. I think seeing eight dogs up against those huge coloured walls made for a really interesting juxtaposition of scale.
Sometimes with the Resident Dog shoots, the more dogs the better, as they tend to follow each other around, making it easier to capture them. All you have to do is work out who is boss, or the one that the rest of the dogs listen too – which happened to be Boris the pug in this instance – and the rest generally falls into place.
Although that wasn’t exactly true at Cuadra san Cristobal, as the dogs are all rescues, come from all different backgrounds, and were all different ages. I think it was nice to split the dogs up into different shots anyway, showing Kuma and Carlota resting on their own, while Yrrol the puppy is shown in every shot running around or play-fighting with his two best friends Frida and Chuleta.
What were some of your favourite moments on these shoots; could you talk to some of the unpredictable things the dogs did?
Nicole England: I think that’s what I love about this project the most: the unpredictability of dogs. I can set up a beautifully composed image, wait for the right light, have all of the styling in place and then the dog comes in and starts rubbing their bum on the expensive hand-woven rug.
In this second edition, there were many not so great unpredictable moments like when Rosie ran away, or when Doogal ate a piece of insulation foam the day before the shoot and ended up in hospital. But some of the best moments were also the unpredictable ones, like when Be stretched out across the sofa like a movie star and looked us in the eye, or when Tofu and Pogba spent the day play fighting in front of the camera instead of posing.
Could you talk to the role of your stylist Natalie James in capturing the dogs and their incredible homes?
Nicole England: Having the same stylist on all of the shoots was fantastic and also provided a lovely consistent look throughout the book. Natalie made sure the interiors looked perfect before shooting and that they were clean and tidy.
Most of the houses were perfectly set up, to begin with, but sometimes to make the composition of the photograph feel balanced, we would need to add furniture, foliage, colour, art, books – or simply take them all out. Sometimes Natalie would rearrange the entire room to achieve this. We were also very conscious that we wanted the resident dog to stand out and not be surrounded in clutter.
Once we were happy with the setup, Natalie’s role changed from stylist to dog whisperer, as she would help call the dog/s into the shot, or settle them down into the right position. Oh the life of a dog!
How does Resident Dog II build on your first edition?
Nicole England: I think you always learn from the things you would do differently if you had the opportunity to do it again. I came to the realisation in this second edition, that this book is about my work. It’s my book; I’m my own client.
It’s not a book about architecture and interiors, nor is it a book about dogs. It’s about my photography and the way I view the world of architecture. This view helped me understand what I needed to achieve with each shoot. I changed my way of working from capturing the whole house, every room and every detail as I would for all of my clients, to looking for more graphic or poetic observations; the way a dog gives scale, personality, drama and softness to these spaces. I looked for the more unexpected such as shadows, reflections and patterns.
Apart from this, the second edition is international so the houses are more varied in style. We also had one writer interview all of the homeowners and architects and then put together a nice big chunk of text at the beginning of each story, so the images sit uninterrupted on each page.
See est’s Instagram for more behind the scenes footage of the making of Resident Dog II, or the Resident Dog Instagram here. Resident Dog II will be released in Australia on November 12 2020.
“I love them all for different reasons. Although I must say Valentino definitely stood out for his cheekiness. Willie Wearstler for his eyes. Louis and Margot for their rolls, Miracle and Persephone for their grace and all of the playful puppies like Yrrol, Leo, Maybe, and Pious for their boundless energy and hilarious sense of humour.”
– Nicole England