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What’s with all the dog banners in Hampden?

By: Chad Smith

This is a guest post. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of

About today’s artist interview…

We’re sitting down for this interview with Washington D.C. pet photographer, J.B. Shepard, to discuss his recent public art installation “Dog Avenue“. The installation has been described as a walking art gallery. It features 19 fun portraits of local dogs. All of the dogs featured in the Dog Avenue display are personal pets of business owners and merchants located in Hampden — voted Baltimore’s most dog friendly neighborhood.

Hey J.B., how’s things going these days? Thanks for sitting with me today.

I’m doing great. Thanks for having me!

Sure thing, my pleasure. So I’ve noticed that you’ve been pretty busy lately, that you’re working on a series of street banners for the avenue in Hampden. Can you tell me a little more about what you’ve been up to?

The banners are part of an ongoing public art installation spearheaded by Dan Harvey from Cotton Duck Title Co. in Hampden called the “Light Pole Banner Project” or LPBA for short. This year’s theme is titled “Dog Avenue”.

Interesting, was this Dan’s idea or your own?

Dan approached me about a year and a half ago looking for guidance on the production front. He saw a need for art, but wasn’t sure exactly how to go about getting it up there.

After walking him through some of the technical requirements, he asked if I had any ideas of what we might put on display. Being a pet photographer, I thought it might be fun to post a bunch of giant dog photos along the Avenue.

Awesome, but why dogs?

Taking photos of dogs is kind of my thing — it’s why I opened the Puptrait Studio. So, if I was going to get involved with production it seemed like the obvious route to take. Plus, who doesn’t like dogs?

Haha, that’s true. So when you set out to create the banners, did you know what direction you’d take right off the bat, or did it develop over time?

The design of the banners has evolved a bit since we began. The original theme was a bit more colorful. The initial idea was a rainbow of colors running along the Avenue, with each banner representing a different hue coming together to form a gradient.

But we realized once we started photographing all of the different pups that it made more sense to run with a more neutral color palette and let the dogs really shine front and center. Plus the new design scheme freed us a bit to be more creative with placement.

Which we thought was important, as each of the dogs has direct ties to different parts of the neighborhood. 

So, all the dogs are actually from the neighborhood?

Yeah, that was the idea. We wanted to create something that represented the neighborhood. All of the pups featured along Dog Avenue are personal pets of merchants from the Hampden Village Merchants Association (HVMA). Only 19 dogs made the final list, but over 22 different businesses in the neighborhood volunteered their pets for the project. It really was a team effort.

That’s a really fun idea. I’m not from Hampden, I live over in Highlandtown. Can you tell me what the HVMA does for the neighborhood?

The HVMA is a loose group of businesses from around the neighborhood. Last I checked we had just shy of 200 organizations participating as members and that list includes most of the shops, restaurants and professional services in the neighborhood.

They get together once a month to vote on different issues facing the neighborhood, look to find ways to promote the area, raise funds for our local family center and other charities, and generally speaking are a way for local business owners to find support and help each other.

One of my favorite things about this project was that it gave me personally a chance to finally meet the people behind these great organizations. They’re by and large a pretty amazing group of people. And, when you meet them individually, you can tell that they really care about the well being of Hampden as a whole. 

Sounds like a really supportive group. I’ve noticed that there’s a logo at the top of each banner. It looks like a map of the city of Baltimore transformed into a paw print. When did you create the logo, and what were you thinking about when you decided on it?

That’s part of a side project I’ve been working on called the PawCity Project. As you noticed, it’s part Baltimore pride. Part celebration of pups. We’ve been steadily working on getting it out there. You’ll find it hidden throughout the city, usually in places where dogs are welcome.

Now that we have the banner project wrapped up, I’m hoping I can use some of my new found free time to start tagging more dog friendly locations — with permission from the owners, of course.

Nice, so dog owners should keep a look-out for any paw prints outside of businesses in the future.

Yeah, that’s the idea. We’re still looking for participating vendors and venues to join the project. Dog Avenue was our official inaugural installation. But I wouldn’t be surprised if you start seeing PawCity prints popping up across Baltimore in the next few months.

If you know anyone who manages or operates a business or service that welcomes dogs, by all means, send them over. We’re always looking for new dog friendly spots to add to the project!

Will do! Real quick before we finish up: are there any other message or meaning behind the banners that I haven’t asked about?

That’s really it. It’s a pretty simple design. All it represents really is pups and Baltimore pride. I think that’s why both the merchants and residents in the neighborhood took to the project. We have a lot of divergent viewpoints and personalities in Hampden. It’s hard to imagine them all agreeing on much. But everyone seems to dig dogs. In all actuality, we would not have been able to pull this off without their support. We did this one by the numbers, permits and all — which required letters of support from both the HVMA and the Hampden Community Council. 

Not to mention we had to find a way to pay for it all. As you might imagine, printing and hanging twenty 8’ tall banners wasn’t cheap. Every shop represented by a dog in the project contributed to making it happen. 

Our featured sponsors – BluePit BBQ, Sugar, Falkenhan’s Hardware, Holy Frijoles, Cotton Duck Title Co. and the Puptrait Studio – all made considerable contributions to this year’s LPBA installation. Without their support we never would have been able to drag this project to the finish line. I really can’t thank each one of them enough.

That’s awesome! It sounds like a huge effort to enliven the neighborhood with something that everyone loves. Why do you think the sponsors were so excited to get behind the project?

That’s a good question. You’re probably best asking each of them directly. But if I had to speculate, I’d imagine it’s because they value the neighborhood they’re located in. That’s one of the great, almost magical things about Hampden. If you look down the Avenue, you’ll notice that for all the different types of businesses located here, the one thing you don’t fine are huge corporate chains. 

I think there’s a certain pride that comes with being an independent shop based solely in a single neighborhood. For them, Hampden isn’t just another up and coming market that needs to be tapped. Hampden is their home. 

Take Falkenhan’s for example, they’re a multi-generation family owned business that has been located in the same building for longer than I’ve even been alive. And, I think when you’ve been around that long, you can’t help but want to see your neighborhood look great and succeed. After all, rising tides raise all ships.

And, these are all dog friendly shops and businesses?

Anyone that has ever been to Hampden knows, this is a super dog friendly neighborhood. Traffic in the area is fairly calm (especially for being located within the city) and when you get off of the Avenue, most of the sidewalks are actually grass lined.

What visitors may not realize is that most of the shops here welcome welcome behaved canine guests. And, even those that can’t due to health code concerns are very passionate about dog causes.

A great example of this is our sponsor Blue Pit BBQ. While not what you would traditionally consider a pet store or pet service, they do an exceptional job operating with dogs in mind and promoting animal advocacy efforts. In warmer months their back deck serves as essentially an ongoing impromptu Yappy Hour. The owners of the restaurant went so far as to name the restaurant after their Blue Pit Bull Terrier, Sakai. They even donate a dollar from every Old Fashioned Cocktail of the Day to BARCS — Baltimore’s animal control and a nonprofit shelter. You don’t get much more dog friendly than that!

From what you’ve said, it sounds like the businesses around you really think that Hamden is a special place.

It really is. That’s why we’re here. I can’t imagine moving the studio anywhere else.

Is there anywhere online folks can learn more about the project?

We put together a small website at It features a gallery of photos and bios for each of the dogs included in the project. There are a lot of fun personalities behind these adorable photos. I encourage folks to check it out. 

Well hey, thanks so much for meeting with me today. It was great to hear about all of the great things going on around Hampden, and I’m really glad you guys are enjoying the neighborhood. I’ve always loved to visit, and its great to hear that everything is coming alive on the avenue. See you buddy!

Absolutely. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat. It’s always great seeing you.

About Chad Smith: Chad is the founder and creative lead of Smith Design, a freelance graphic design agency based out of Baltimore, Maryland, specializing in crafting unique user experiences and designing user interfaces. He graduated from Mount St. Mary’s University in 2006 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design.

Photography News

9 Famous Dog Photographers You Should Be Following in 2020

Whether you’re a dog mom, someone looking for a unique gift for that favorite animal lover in your life, or just a person who enjoys imaginative photography, these 9 famous dog photographers are a must follow for anyone in need a of a daily dose of original dog photos.

While pet photography has historically struggled to be taken seriously by many critics and connoisseurs of photographic art, the niche has exploded in popularity in recent years.

From American Pit Bull Terriers in Paper Hats to Weimaraners in trench coats, dog portraiture comes in many creative forms and quality god art can be found in many unexpected places – rural Canada, blue collar cities like Baltimore and in the world renowned MoMA in New York City.

A creative pet portrait from famous dog photographer J.B. Shepard. This portrait is from Shepard's signature series, Paper Hats.
From J.B. Shepard‘s critically acclaimed dog portrait series, Paper Hats

Top 9 Pet Photographers in North America

1. J.B. Shepard – Baltimore, MD USA

A relative new comer in comparison to the more established names on the list, J.B. Shepard is a studio pet photographer and founder of the Puptrait Studio — a dog friendly photo studio located in the Washington D.C. / Baltimore area that bills itself as crafting ‘contemporary art for dog lovers‘.

Best known for his fine art pet portrait series, Paper Hats, featuring top hats, crowns and Baroque style ruff collars for dogs made out of carefully sorted colorful scraps of upcycled newspaper. J.B. has also built a reputation for his masterful use of studio style lighting and knack for photographing black dogs, brindle pups, and other pets with dark fur that are notoriously difficult to light well — making him a hot commodity with commercial pet product photography clients that require images heavy in both substance and style.

Shepard’s whimsical pet photos and unique headshot style of pet photography has quietly garnered him a relative cult following of prestigious collectors, art consultants and fans. His surreal photo portraits often pop up in unexpected and non-dog related places. – such as on TV as background art on the British Academy Television Award winning and critically acclaimed comedy, ‘Toast of London’.

Prints from the Paper Hats dog portrait series are available for purchase from the online pet art dealer A portion of all print art sales from K9RT benefit nonprofit animal rescues and independent dog advocacy groups.

Follow J.B. Shepard on Instagram @puptrait

2. William Wegman – New York, NY USA

William Wegman is arguably one of the most prolific painters to come out of the California Conceptual Movement and is currently one of the most popular photographers to work with dogs in the modern area.

The Met credits Wegman with “elevating pet photography into an art form“. Often working with his own pet Weimaraners, Wegman is best known for his series “Human Beings” where he dresses his dogs in people clothing and capturing captivating personifying scenes that blur the line between animal and people.

Follow William Wegman on Instagram @williamwegman

3. Seth Casteel – Nashville, TN USA

Seth Casteel is a professional pet photographer best known for photographing dogs, puppies and cats diving into water. If you have seen a photo of a dog diving into a pool of water, odds are it was taken by (or at least, inspired by) Seth Casteel.

Casteel’s work has been published in the National Geographic Magazine, as well as a number of other notable publications. He is a the New York Times Best Selling Author of “Underwater Dogs” and the host of ‘Finding Fido’ on Z Living.

Follow Seth Casteel on Instagram @sethcasteel 

4. Carli Davidson – Portland, OR USA

Carli Davidson is a professional pet photographer best known for capturing the unique personalities of her furry pet patrons. Davidson worked for over seven years in zoos and wildlife centers, lending her an exceptional understanding of wildlife behavior and communication. She is best known for her series of portraits featuring wet dogs and cats shaking themselves dry called “Shake Pups”.

Davidson maintains a busy travel schedule and is available to photograph pets in many different cities across the United States throughout the year.

Follow Carli Davidson on Instagram @carli_davidson

5. Illona Haus – Kitchener, ON CA

Illona Haus is an award winning dog photographer and the owner of Scruffy Dog Photography based out of Ontario, Canada. Haus initially began working with horses and later became a dog trainer before becoming a dog photographer.

And, when you see Haus’s work, we think you can feel this influence come through. Her photos tend to have a very distinct, calm and natural vibe to them — even when portraits are held in interior or man made environments. Which is remarkable considering how much of her animal subject’s distinct personalities shine in these amazing pet portraits.

Follow Illona Haus on Instagram @scruffydogphotography

6. Amanda Jones – Berkshires, MA USA

Amanda Jones has been photographing dogs for over 20 years. Jones maintains a busy travel schedule, working with private pet portrait and commercial photography clients across the United States. She has been featured in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle, Bark Magazine and the German dog magazine, Dogs.

Jones is arguably best known for her photo book, “Dog Years“, that tracked dogs over the course of 30 years – comparing photos of them as young puppies and again later as senior puppies.

Follow Amanda Jones on Instagram @amandajonesinc

7. Kaylee Greer – Boston, MA USA

Kaylee Greer is a Boston based pet photographer and host of the National Geographic TV show “Pupparazzi”. Greer is best known for her on location flash photography of dogs, which tends to bring out brilliantly saturated colors in her subjects and backgrounds. Greer is probably one of the most recognizable photographers on this list as her signature bright red hair is difficult to miss.

That said, Greer’s signature up close and personal photography style, off camera method of handheld flash lighting, and delightfully colorful concepts make it difficult (if not impossible) to confuse Greer’s photos with the work of any other photographer on this list.

Follow Kaylee Greer on Instagram @dogbreathphotography

8. Jesse Freidin – Santa Fe, NM USA

Jesse Freidin is a professional pet photographer and portrait artist based out of Santa Fe. Like William Wegman, Freidin still uses film when photographing client dogs and his iconic black and white dog photos are celebrated by clients and publishers alike.

Freidin is arguably best known for his pet portrait series, “the Doggie Gaga Project” which featured photos of dogs dressed like Grammy and Oscar winning superstar Lady Gaga. Which in our opinion is nothing short of amazing.

Follow Jesse Freidin on Instagram at @jessefreidin

9. John Gaylord – Washington, DC USA

John Gaylord is a pet photographer working out of the Washington DC metro region and the founder of Outside the Lines Pet Photography. Like the first pet photographer on our list, J.B. Shepard, John currently shoots out of the D.C / Maryland area but was originally from the New England state of Maine.

Outside the Lines specializes in on location pet photography and is best known for their dramatic portraits of pets shot against the iconic monuments, unique buildings, and other popular landmarks that dot the Washington D.C. skyline.

How much does pet photography cost?

Pet portrait prices vary based on a number of factors – including the reputation of the artist, the nature of your local market, length of session, and what prints are delivered following your session. Pet photography costs can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to well into the tens of thousands of dollars for a private commission.

Which makes sense when you consider that a “professional pet photographer” could refer to a recent art school grad or someone MoMA hosted for a feature exhibit. As you would hope that someone at the top of their game would charge more than a photographer that was still learning or just starting their career. But that said, that isn’t always the case and you shouldn’t rule out hiring a pet photographer simply because their prices are more affordable than the competition.

Know what you’re paying for

As you can see from this list, even great pet photographers can vary in their methods and approach when shooting a dog. While the photographers on this list are located in a wide range of different locations across the continent, there are a ton of great pet photographers out there that did not make the list — many of whom might be located in your home town.

It’s important to know what questions to ask and common red flags to look for when evaluating pet portrait artists. Remember to always review a photographer’s portfolio carefully before hiring them to photograph your pets or family.

Want to learn how to photograph pets like a pro?

Photographing dogs isn’t easy, but with enough practice behind the lens, diligent study of animal behavior, and few helpful tips from knowledgeable experts, anyone can learn how to take better photos of their pets. If you’re looking for a great place to start we recommend checking out these helpful pet photography Lens and Camera guides written by J.B. Shepard (the first photographer featured on our list).

Please note PXLFY LLC may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. This is not a sponsored post and was not compensated by any of the photographers included on this list. Photographer info was compiled from public data available on line at time of publication.