Meet the Incredible Balancing Coonhound, Maddie
Theron Humphrey created a viral sensation with Maddie on Things. But he is also the creative professional behind This Wild Idea, a project documenting the stories behind various Americans. Specifically, it's a 365 project, where he publishes a new story and photo series every day.
We had some time to talk to Theron about the projects he's been working on, and about how he got Maddie to stand on various objects.
B&H Photo: What was the inspiration for Maddie Standing on Things? Was it just something she was doing naturally, or did you come up with the concept yourself?
Theron: The project evolved organically. I had been on the road for a few months with Maddie, close to 8 months now, actually, and we had been meeting folks every day along the way. I started to get burnt out, and I wanted to change the pace, to do something different, so I started photographing her because she’s always there. Over time, I would pick her up and put her on things. A lot of Coonhounds are climbers; sometimes Maddie will even run up a tree. It’s in her nature, I suppose.
B&H Photo: Maddie seems to be very comfortable in her role as a model. How do you get her to pose in the photographs?
Theron: She’s always been that dog that would rather stand that lie down. It’s pretty funny, actually. I’d be hanging out at a friend's house, and Maddie would be standing in the middle of the living room by herself, when I suppose a lot of dogs would lie down.
B&H Photo: It’s a very simple idea, executed exceptionally well, which seems to make it perfect for a Tumblr! What are your thoughts on the response to the project, and on the Tumblr community?
Theron: The Tumblr community is fantastic. It’s an amazing platform. I love it for its simplicity. It’s all about the image—for this project at least. I can upload an image right from my iPhone, and it’s shared on the web less than a minute after I took it. Pretty amazing.
B&H Photo: This project grew out of a much larger project, This Wild Idea, in which you’re travelling around America and telling the story of one person per day. It’s an ambitious project! What made you decide you wanted to pursue this project? We understand there have been some setbacks along the way too. How have you handled the challenges?
Theron: I had a commercial photography job for a few years. I was good, I learned a lot. But I woke up one day and realized I didn’t want to show my family someday a portfolio of handbags. I wanted to live a different story. I wanted to go out there and have to swallow my stomach to make images. I wanted to meet folks and try to figure out what it means to love my neighbor.
I was robbed in Mississippi, back in January. That was pretty devastating at the time. It was hard to lose all my gear, but mainly it was tough because they stole both of my hard drives. All of my data from six months of work was lost. But I came to realize that even my photography can’t define me, because someone can steal it. The real value was in meeting all those folks out there on the road, having that time with them. That kept me going. There was—and is—so much road to see.
B&H Photo: Do you have any advice for photographers thinking about pursuing their own projects?
Theron: Follow through with your idea; if something pops in your head, go shoot it. For years, I would talk over beers about ideas I had for photo projects, but I would never pick up my camera after work. I know it’s one of those things that are easy to say but hard to do. But if you can find the passion to make the images, and stick with it—to have endurance even if the images are not that great, it will lead to something beautiful.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of B&H Photo, Video, Pro Audio