Eloise, a Photographer’s Muse

By John Martin - July 4, 2020

Eloise Dumpty

Procrastinating and the web often go hand in hand, and in many cases it ends up being a fruitful affair. I often find really amazing stories by simply letting one web page lead me to another without worrying about all the time I’m wasting by diverting from my original task. Case in point, the photos of Flickr user, Bird. The Santa Barbara-based office manager has one of the most creative photo collections of her Boston Terrier Eloise I have ever seen. After thumbing through her set, I knew I had to know more about the dog in front of the lens and the woman behind it.

How old is Eloise and how did you two meet?
Eloise is now 4.5 years old. I adored Bostons, their temperament, their size, their look… everything. We attempted to adopt for quite a while but ran into issues because we rent, and were planning on having children. We then (after a huge amount of research) found Eloise through a breeder. It was a wonderful experience, we were able to meet Eloise’s grandmother and mother, her brothers and sisters… and all the dogs slept in the bed with the breeder! Probably due to this, Eloise is the biggest snuggler on the planet and a world-class bed hog.

Eloise Bed

When did you start photographing Eloise in costume?
When she was about 6 months old, I dressed her up in an elf hat for a Christmas card shot, and it was an epiphany (no pun intended). She was just completely at ease. Since then I’m unable to look at miniature items of any type without suddenly brainstorming photo shoots.

How long have you been a photographer? Did you study photography or just pick it up?
I know absolutely nothing about photography. I took a course in college that was extremely unhelpful and the teacher was kind of a cuckoo. Somehow this didn’t scare me off, but I rely 100% on my camera’s auto setting and can’t find a correct f-stop if my life depended on it!

Many of your photos are visual representations of traditional children’s stories. What makes nursery rhymes ideal for Eloise photos?
Originally it started off as themes for the calendar projects – 2010 was fairy tales and 2011 was nursery rhymes. Before that we simply did shots that were representative of the month (i.e. June was Eloise on the beach with her surfboard), but that led to a lot of mental anguish trying to come up with something different from the previous year and we started to feel our choices were too limited that way. My husband (aka World’s Most Patient Human) hit upon the idea of a theme for each year and it greatly simplified things. I think it probably works well because they are so familiar to people. There is such an instant visual cue that people bring up for each story/rhyme, that seeing this goofy little face playing the main parts makes it funny. So many people have told me that they spent the entire month of April 2010 laughing because Eloise was the ugliest Snow White they ever seen. Eloise always has looked (and acted) like a living stuffed animal. I feel there is something so childlike in her that it helps lend to the whole children’s stories theme as well.

Eloise Bopeep

What kind of fame have you and Eloise received through your adorable photos?
Honestly, not much! We make a calendar every year, and give it out to friends, and there is a group of Boston fanatics that I will sell a few to, but that’s it! We did almost get a deal with a greeting card company years ago. They wanted to buy one of my pictures (“Eloise vs. The Gnomes”) and it was all very exciting to think of people all over the country getting cheered up by Eloise… but then they told me they only wanted to by the idea and wanted to re-shoot the picture with a different dog. Needless to say I did not take them up on it. Eloise world domination via greeting cards or nothing!

How many Eloise in costume photos have you taken?
Oh good heavens… that’s a question for the ages. Probably at least a hundred!

Where do you find all of Eloise’s amazing costumes?
Most of them are made by me. When I can, I utilize doll costumes (mostly hats, I can sew but I am not a milliner, much to my disappointment!), but generally I make everything. Unfortunately, I wrote the book on procrastination, so November-December around our house is not exactly pleasant. I think we clean up felt scraps, hot glue residue, and fake fur for about 4 months afterward.

Check out the rest of Eloise’s adorable getups on Bird’s Flickr set and don’t miss the adorable images (squeeee!).

Thanks Bird and Eloise for sharing your story!