Derrick Santini: Pictures of Lily

Photographer Derrick Santini is running Paw-traits on July 27 and 28 in Woodend Gallery and Studios – an opportunity to have a special photoshoot of your pooch. But where did the idea come from?

Here Derrick chats about his love of dogs, and the inspiration behind Paw-traits – Lily, his beloved white Bull Terrier who was photographed with everyone from Taylor Swift to Idris Elba.

“Lily was with me for 17 wonderful years of my life.

Darren, a good friend of mine, owned her mum, Bonny – she was a diamond of a dog who I looked after a lot and became very close to.

When Darren wanted to breed her, I paid for the mating with a fabulous bully called Storm; the pups – all 11 of them! – were born at my studio in East London and they all stayed there till they went to their respective new owners, including Alexander McQueen and Katy England.

I got the pick of the litter and Lily, the only all-white one, was my choice; Lily White Shadow was her official breeding name as she shadowed me wherever I went. I never had her on a lead and she was the most loyal companion I’ve ever known.

There’s nothing like the pure and unquestioning loyalty between dog and owner: they never expect anything but love, affection and companionship. Lily constantly made me laugh with her headstrong antics and bullish behaviour – she was a gentle soul and super chilled, but I never worried about her because she could definitely look after herself (as most Bull Terriers usually can!). People really loved her, and she was always making friends through her long life. I’ve never had another dog, but I couldn’t resist another Bull Terrier. I love all dogs – and animals – but Bullies have a very special place in my heart.

Dogs are also brilliant on photoshoots as they diffuse any issues or hangups anyone might have; they don’t care, they’re just in the moment getting on with their thing. Lily was there at all my shoots and would wander about the set making friends with everyone – she was pretty much my goodwill ambassador if I was too otherwise engaged to be social! – and I’d just start taking snaps of her with whichever subject I was shooting that day.

A body of work started to grow which I called Pictures Of Lily from the song by The Who. I’ll publish it as a coffee table book one day, in conjunction with my favourite Bull Terrier charity, Beds For Bullies.

I’m really looking forward to meeting lots of new dogs with Paw-traits! Creating a memorable image or sequence of images of the dog – or dogs! – with their family, be it one person a couple or a whole family unit, will be really special. I’m excited to capture the character and charisma of the dogs and the unique relationship and bond with the family.

Shooting the images in a studio set up with a white background will also bring a cool, graphic vibe to the whole experience, and will result in a timeless photograph to pass down the generations.”

Want to book your own Paw-trait dog photoshoot? Head here for more information.

Read more about Derrick’s exhibition Self Made, currently in Scarborough Art Gallery until 1 September.