The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 38: 'Love those ears': Andy Sheng shoots a star
This is Heidi. Last year, she was "discovered" in the park by a pet talent agency; since then, she has embarked on a one-dog quest to break into show business. This is her Hollywood story as chronicled by Diane Haithman.
Replacing Heidi's usual head shot, to your right you will see Heidi with her new friend Andy Sheng, 38, owner of Otis & Lucy Photography in Culver City. The studio is named after Sheng's first dog, Otis, and Otis' best friend, Lucy. Sheng's current dog-in-residence is Louie the Labrador (named for Louis Armstrong).
Andy and Heidi came to meet because Sheng e-mailed me after the story of Heidi's ongoing showbiz aspirations became a Column One feature in the print edition of The Times. Sheng suggested that Heidi's career -- such as it is -- might get a boost from acquiring a professional head shot that shows off her good side. He invited Heidi in for a photo session so we could see what he had in mind.
Once we arrived at Sheng's studio and saw some of his work, however, it became clear that the "head shot" was quite a few notches below his level of artistry. Plus, Sheng confessed that he's never really done animal head shots because the people most likely to want them are the ones signing up with questionable animal talent agencies that profess to be able to find work for pets, but more often end up scamming the pet owners with expensive training programs that lead exactly nowhere.
No matter to us -- not only are we not signing up with a pet talent agency, but Heidi loves the camera and is always happy to get her photo taken, head shot or no. And I figured that, should Heidi never make it as an actor, Sheng might give us some perspective on Heidi's chances of getting work as a model.
Sheng recently left a successful career in the film industry, doing digital special effects for movies including "Happy Feet" and "Babe," to concentrate on photographing animals. Growing up, he never had a dog because his dad was afraid of them. "I love animals," he says. "I've tried photographing people, but I just don't enjoy it as much."
Sheng and his assistant, Megan Harmon, started the session by giving Heidi time to prowl, sniff and meet big, friendly Louie and Harmon's spunky Chihuahua mix, Billie. Heidi also checked out Louie's collection of stuffed toys. Visiting dogs are hard on the toys, so Harmon often creates what Sheng calls "Frankentoys" by sewing the torn pieces back together. Heidi goes for anything that squeaks, so she immediately adopted a squeaky plush football as her own.
Heidi received high marks for working it for the camera -- although she made Sheng and Harmon squeal by giving one drenching drool in response to the offer of a treat; if they're ever casting for Pavlov's actual dog, she's a shoo-in. "She's a model; she definitely knows how to pose, and she's got the head tilt down," Sheng said. "Love those ears."
When asked for an honest assessment of her chances of getting print work, however, Sheng was less encouraging. In his experience, those looking for dogs for print purposes usually want purebreds, and Heidi, a rescue of unknown pedigree, appears to be a German shepherd mix. He also observed her crooked elbow joints, the result of dysplasia and arthritis, and the whitening fur on her snout. "She's a little old-looking," he said -- this about my puppy. However, Sheng suggested that Heidi might be good in ads for food for senior dogs. He added that painters or other artists sometimes use dogs with non-standard looks for models, but you do that for love, not money.
Regardless of her potential as the canine Heidi Klum, the dog had so much fun modeling that I think she'd have paid for the opportunity, if dogs had money. And check out those shots -- Sheng definitely knows how to make an aging shepherd look like a star. You gotta love those ears.
To see the rest of the day's photos, follow this link.
Photos: Heidi and Andy Sheng / Megan Harmon. All other photos / Andy Sheng. Bottom photo: Louie, Billie and Heidi.