MEET PHOTOGRAPHER | DIRECTOR: CARLI DAVIDSON / by Conor Bettendorf

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There are three types of people in this world; there's cat people, there's dog people, and there's Carli Davidson. The latter could also be called, simply, an animal person. Carli has spent the majority of her adult life caring for, looking after, and training all sorts of animals. After a good, long tenure as a (in her words) "shit shoveler" at the Oregon Zoo, Carli suffered a car accident that completely rerouted her career path. 

Having been interested in photography since childhood, Carli spent much of her free time behind the camera when she wasn't working at the Zoo. This rare combination of two of her biggest passions is exactly what caused Carli to find success so quickly. It's no wonder her SHAKE series skyrocketed to fame in short order. Carli's work has been featured on publishings such as Huff Post, Slate Magazine, Wired, and many more.

Although her work with still photography has garnered much of her attention, Carli is renowned for her directing work as well. Here is one STUNNING cat video she directed that you're sure to love! She's even helped us at Plaid Pony create some incredible campaigns. Merrick Pet Care and Sheba Cat Food are just a couple that we were able to work with her on.

Carli Davidson is free spirited, high-energy, and unique... all the reasons we love her. Her passion and her drive have lead her to not only find success in the tough world of photography and motion, but also to the peak levels of physical endurance. She's the whole package, and that's why she's our Featured Photographer/Director of the week! Meet our favorite animal-loving friend; Carli Davidson.

Tell us about your art and how you got involved with photography/directing?

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Some of my earliest memories are being on photo sets. My father was an art director, and always had a camera loaded with film in arms reach. As I got older he would bring me to editing houses in NY and involve me in the creative process. It was something that I didn’t think much about until decades later when I moved back into the commercial still and motion world. As I started taking on more work it was super apparent how much that early education was allowing me to focus on the creative because the technical side was second nature.

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What was a pivotal moment in your career?

Getting in a car wreck. I got called into the Oregon Zoo when I was still working animal care and shooting on the side, to photograph a surgery (it was the spaying of an Amur Leopard, the world's rarest big cat) I went in and we had to cancel last minute as is the nature of medical shoots. On the way home my truck was totalled while I was stopped at a crosswalk. I had to stop working animal care while I recovered. To make ends meet I started shooting more and developed project ideas in my free time. It was these projects that lead to my SHAKE series that propelled me to where I am today. Without that accident I would 100% still be shoveling shit at the zoo and shooting on the side, and I can’t say I would be sad about it! I miss the simplicity and reward of that job.

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What has been your favorite set to work on? Why?

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My favorite set was a doublewide trailer in the back of North Shore Animal League, an animal rescue in Long Island NY on a shoot for Diageo Liquors with Colangelo Agency. I had one of my absolute best friends doing animal training and handling with dogs who were up for adoption at the shelter on set, my cousin who is also a commercial photographer and lifelong mentor was my first assistant, and it was a balmy 10 degrees outside!!! It was magic, we were working with commited rescuers, amazing dogs, and a good natured crew / agency that brought it 100% defying our chilly challenges with positive energy. The shoot provided a HUGE donation to NSAL and a portion of all the bottles sold with the rescue dog images went to them as well. Everybody won.

What is one of your proudest moments in your career?

Finding out I was a NYT Bestseller was crazy. Also Oprah, Neil Patrick Harris, and Richard Simmons being amongst those to repost and complement my work. Because OMG they know I exist.

What are some other things you enjoy when you aren’t shooting?

If I could live in a tent with all my gear and still make it to shoots I would. I backpack, cycle, climb, and live to adventure outdoors. After leaving Portland last year for Austin I started training for my first Century Ride and I’ve been ticking off a list of Volcanoes in the PNW to summit over the next few years. Training for that in mountainless Austin is a challenge unto itself. I’m also planning a through hike of the John Muir Trail in 2019.

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What is your favorite part about being on set?

The comradery and energy of a crew all working hard together. I am so lucky to almost always have animals on set, and that makes it fun for everyone! I try to have extra puppies or kittens when possible for the clients, agency, and crew to hand out with on breaks -- a lot of animal trainers love bringing young animals on set to get them used to the environment.

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What does #createmoments or #ponyup mean to you?

#createmoment -- JUST DO IT! Have fun, be authentic, feel the inspiration. #ponyup -- Find the strength to lift a pony off the ground. They are heavy, but I believe in you.

What is one thing your fans may not know about you?

Hm, I lay it all on the table for my fans generally. I’m a big fan of vulnerability in my online presence for better or worse to make sure I’m staying true to myself in a sometimes over curated medium.

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What current projects are you working on?

Working on a new book pitch, on finding a more permanent shooting space in Austin so I can shoot impulsively like I had the luxury to do in my Portland studio, and developing a few travel workshops for 2018 / 2019. I’m also working on a pop up in Portland this summer that I’ll bring to Austin for sure if it does well, as well as some collaborations with local shops and rescues. I’ve only been around for a year but I’m working my grubby lil paws into the community as best I can.

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Check out Carli in action:

Website: Carli Davidson

Instagram: @carli_davidson

Email: carlidavidson@gmail.com

for booking: Janice Moses Represents