This September marks the 20th anniversary of the cult classic mockumentary, Best In Show, Christopher Guest’s lovingly unflattering portrayal of the dogs and their handlers competing at Mayflower Dog Show (a fictional event based in part on the annual Westminster Dog Show). But before the hit is able to close it’s second decade as reigning comedic rendering of championship pooches, a new Best In Show has arrived on the market.
Enter Dolly Faibyshev, a photographer with a keen eye for kitsch and color. She’s spent the past decade creating a trove of campy images of blue-ribbon worthy dogs and their often eccentric handlers. Here, an interview with the artist about her new book, Best In Show.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What drew you to begin photographing the Westminster Dog Show?
I was just starting out as a photographer and originally saw it on TV. I love the way it’s inherently striving for this posh classy thing but then you have the dogs that are fundamentally out of our control. Of course, the dogs are mostly very well-behaved, but there’s no guarantee. The humans have so much invested in this while the dogs likely don’t really know what's going on, and there's an inherent humor in that.
Do you go in specifically looking for the comical moments?
I don’t know that I always start out looking for humor, but I always seem to find it! I do seek out events and situations that are prone to humor like the dog show. I’m looking for something magical—it could be funny, or a small moment of human feeling, a pop of color, or a dog that catches my eye.
How did you develop this humorous, bright colors, high-flash style?
I’ve always been attracted to interesting combinations of colors, I think they bring photos to life. I try to approach each situation and figure out what will serve it best. Sometimes the existing light brings out the colors naturally, while other times the flash brings out all of the textures and accentuates the scenes. The dogs’ fur and the handler's bright suits in particular shine in a whole new way when hit with a flash of light.
Are all these photos from a single year, or over the past decade or so that you’ve been attending?
They are a collection of photos taken over the past decade. Every year is different—things get moved around, a new breed gets introduced, there are new faces, and my style is always evolving, so I find something new every time.
What are your favorite dogs to shoot?
Poodles, poodles, poodles! They look so statuesque and refined when they’re all done up, and yet there is something so funny about them at the same time. But I really love any dog with a good personality and hairdo.
And last but not least… are you headed back this year?
The show happens to coincide with New York Fashion Week, so I'll be shooting that instead this year—but I'll probably still be surrounded by a lot of hairspray!