Natalia Martinez & Bill Parsons
Location: Petaluma, CA
Give us a brief description of you, your work and your style.
With a shared passion for animals, our work is an uncomplicated blend of fine art and lifestyle photography and centers around photographing companion animals in a natural environment letting their individuality shine. We work with private and commercial clients and volunteer services to shelters and rescue organizations. Living in the California countryside, with two dogs and two cats, Bill and I work with our hands, we still shoot film and truly love what we do.
What are your goals as artists?
To freeze time! :) and tell the story of a bond between people and companion animals through beautiful photography. To photograph what we love and give back through our work.
From where do you draw inspiration?
I am inspired every day by light, the great outdoors and the way our dogs savor every minute in it. It's a valuable lesson in life isn't it? To make the most out of it and take it all in. Hiking, music, movies or a good book, plus the work of other artists out there, all that serves to inspire us deeply.
Why do you chose to show your prints on Plywerk?
A huge part of our brand and our pride in what we do is to create something truly unique and handmade with attention to detail from start to finish. We feel PLYWERK shares those values in their own products too, not to mention how stunning they are. I love the weight and craftsmanship of each piece, and it truly makes our work shine. It is our most popular product we offer to our private clients. They love the fact that it arrives ready to hang on a wall and extra added detail of it being a small business and an eco-friendly product, it's a win-win for everyone.
Do you work together or shoot separately?
We truly enjoy working together. We tend to shoot tandem, meaning while one has the camera and focuses on shooting, the other is engaging with the dog or cat or person, watching for behavior and body language. Bill sees things I miss and vice versa. We become each other's assistants and hand off cameras often. Bill says I have a special connection with dogs, while I think he has an incredible hand with cats. It is an often voiceless communication we seemed to have from the beginning.
If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?
My mom's recipe for green enchiladas. Bill would probably whip up something fantastic from whatever is in the fridge at the moment
Favorite coffee drink?
I love New Orleans style iced coffee
What tactics do you use to engage the animals to bring out their personalities?
The single most important thing for us (and for anyone who wants to photograph animals) is to understand their body language and behavior. I personally think this is more important than any equipment you bring with you that day. Make dog or a cat feel comfortable, safe and understood in your presence and gear and their personality shines through effortlessly. A squeaky toy or treat will not work for every dog; just like people, they are all individuals and taking the time to get to know them is key to getting a great shot. We try to find out as much as possible from our clients so that we can tailor the shoot to their needs and personality. The first 20 minutes of the shoot are dedicated to introduce ourselves and our equipment to the animals; its sight, scent and sound, and then associate it with something they love, like food, toys or playtime. This step is important, because a camera lens (to a dog or cat) can look like a big, scary, unblinking eye. We watch their body language to make sure they are comfortable. We want their portraits to show their beauty, unique characteristics and personality, and that includes ears up, soft eyes and a relaxed mouth (in dogs, it genuinely resembles a smile). If a dog is uncomfortable in front of a camera, he/she will show signs of stress, such as looking away, worried eyes with whites showing, licking their lips or have theirs ears low and close to their head. We tend to forget the clock and go at the animal's pace. For those who enjoy squeaky toys, we used one well-timed squeak right at the moment of clicking the shutter, constant squeaking is overwhelming and you'll lose their attention in no time. Others are very attuned to where your hands are, and if you have a cookie or a toy they love, we bring that close to the lens, shoot and then reward them with the item in your hand. This creates a positive association with a camera, it means that when that clicking noise goes off, they get a reward. Most of all we just pay attention to the dog or cat, and we use whatever makes them happy to get the shot. This ensures everyone has fun, especially them.
What is the best part of your job? Worst?
I really enjoy spending time with animals in an environment they feel happy and safe in, especially outdoors. I adore seeing them have fun and capturing the moment in time for someone who loves them. We love the first reveal, when the person gets to see their images for the first time and we love getting updates on all our clients, seeing how they are using and enjoying their photos. It's a little something you did for someone, and they get to enjoy it everyday. My all time favorite though, is getting to see the animals again when we hand-deliver all their products and to have that dog or cat recognize and remember you and get happy over seeing you again. That takes the cake, it means we did right by them. :) The worst part, for me is the dull business side of things, it is a necessary evil to be able to succeed, but worse than that I'd say is having to fight for the value of photography. In this very fast-paced, instant-gratification , highly-digital era, people want everything for nothing and disregard the value of something created with care and time. Being an artist is a real job too, one that will put a roof over your head and feed your family, and sometimes that gets lost in people's minds. It makes me sad to see so much great work plagiarized because art is found on Google, so people assume it is there for the taking, when in reality, someone is always behind that piece of art, and they always deserve their credit and their chance to make their craft feed them, emotionally and physically.
If you could have any superpower what would you chose?
I would choose invisibility or the ability to learn anything in seconds (Matrix style!) and Bill would choose flight.
Are certain animals easier to photograph than others?
I think it greatly depends on the animals as an individual. It's like saying 'are some people are easier to photograph than others?' well , sure! But we are all different. Some animals are very shy of strangers and fearful of new things in their environment, and others are very social and happy but maybe won't slow down! Puppies and kittens are their own kind of fun, because there is no "sit, stay" there yet, just like kids, you go at their pace, not against it. We approach each animal individually and customize the way we work with that in mind. With shy and fearful animals, we take our time and do everything in our power to make them feel safe and have a good time. With puppies and very active dogs, we run around, we play we do everything they feel happy doing and save the more still shots for the end, when they have gotten their zoomies out. For commercial, editorial shoots, we really love working with dogs and cats with certain amount of training, it is awesome to just watch the person and dog at work as a team, and give the client exactly what they want, for example, a dog that can hold a toy in its mouth, or high-five or catch a frisbee. Either way, we love the challenge that each shoot (private or commercial) brings.
How do you feel about clowns?
I shiver in fear.
Favorite Golden Girl?
Bill loves Sophia. :)
What was the best costume that you ever wore?
Bill and I decked out as Day of the Dead Mariachi and Frida Kahlo in full sugar-skull style makeup. We love Halloween.
If you had to describe yourself as a flavor, what would it be?
I'd be "Mexican chocolate" (ha ha) and Bill would be "cheddar". :)
Win a Photo Lab Pet Photography Print on Plywerk
Post a comment about Nat and Bill's work below and you will automatically be entered to win one of their awesome images on our 3/4" bamboo Plywerk! We will select a winner at random at the end of the month so make sure you come back to the blog in early January to see if you won and to check out the new featured artist! We’ll ship it anywhere in the US for free.