Crea­ture fea­ture

Auck­land-based stylist louise hilsz swapped high fashion for furry friends.

Frankie - - MY PROJECT - WORDS LUKE RYAN

There’s no mis­tak­ing a Crea­tures & Co. por­trait: the lu­mi­nes­cent, fan­tas­ti­cal de­sign; the hyper-sat­u­rated flo­rals; the beloved cat, dog or guinea pig look­ing deeply con­fused about what’s hap­pen­ing to them. Half con­cep­tual prom photo, half ’80s t-shirt de­sign, this is Anne Ged­des for the four-pawed set – with a healthy dose of magic for­est psychedelia thrown in for good mea­sure.

Crea­tures & Co. is the pas­sion project of Auck­land fashion stylist and an­i­mal lover Louise Hilsz. “Af­ter work­ing as a stylist for so long, I re­alised the projects I loved the most al­ways in­volved an­i­mals,” Louise says. “I thought it would be awe­some to do some­thing fun and cre­ative with peo­ple’s pets.”

Draw­ing on her own per­sonal aes­thetic – “My style def­i­nitely has a more-is-more ap­proach; I’m al­ways wear­ing a rain­bow of colour” – Louise builds her pet por­traits from an ever-ex­pand­ing col­lec­tion of faux flow­ers, astro-turf and kids’ bed sheets. (“Pro­fes­sional drop sheets weren’t cute enough,” she ex­plains.) She works hand-in-hand with a pho­tog­ra­pher, shoot­ing at friend and col­lab­o­ra­tor Ju­lia Ford’s stu­dio, where the con­crete floors ap­par­ently come in handy in the case of un­ex­pected ac­ci­dents.

The project is in many ways in­spired by Louise’s own beloved dog, Pinky – a 16-year-old, clin­i­cally blind chi­huahua-shih-tzu cross. “She’s a hard sub­ject to pho­to­graph these days,” Louise says, “as she tends to wan­der around.” So far, Louise has shot crea­tures great and small, from long-haired guinea pigs to fluffy kit­tens, dachshunds, ex­otic short­hair mog­gies and big, goofy labradors.“i’m look­ing for­ward to get­ting a rab­bit book­ing,” she says. Her own rab­bit, Munchie, sadly passed be­fore Crea­tures & Co. be­gan, so a shoot would pay suitable homage: “I adore rab­bits, and they’d suit our set so well!”

Of course, pho­tograph­ing an­i­mals does come with its fair share of idio­syn­cra­sies. Cats, in par­tic­u­lar, pose a chal­lenge. “Cats re­ally don’t want to sit still,” Louise says. “We ended up hav­ing to fashion a tun­nel so they’re ba­si­cally forced to run to­wards the cam­era. It makes for some great ac­tion shots.” But in gen­eral, de­spite the time­worn adage, she reck­ons an­i­mals are far bet­ter cre­ative part­ners than kids. “With chil­dren, you have such a small win­dow be­fore they crack it. An­i­mals ac­tu­ally warm up the longer you spend work­ing with them. Also, they don’t cry. Worst case is you get a few barks.”

The owners them­selves pro­vide their own par­tic­u­lar joys – “Those ‘manly men’ re­ally get into it with their little dogs,” Louise says – but the best part of the job is, ob­vi­ously, the crit­ters, con­fused as they may be. “You get to spend qual­ity time with a va­ri­ety of an­i­mals and have lots of furry cud­dles,” she says. “And there’s so much laugh­ter on set. It’s so dif­fer­ent to work­ing on fashion or com­mer­cial shoots. This is work filled with love.”

As to why peo­ple should em­brace the world of pet por­trai­ture? Easy. “Pets give us so much un­con­di­tional love and joy ev­ery day. They don’t com­plain or fight, and all they ask for is ba­sic care and com­pan­ion­ship. They def­i­nitely de­serve to be hon­oured with a beau­ti­ful por­trait!”

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