A Photographer Shows What It's Really Like Behind the Scenes at the Westminster Dog Show
On Monday, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will host nearly 3,000 dogs entered from around the world—all in competition to be crowned Best in Show. Amid the pomp and circumstance of this elite world, Dolly Faibyshev is unfazed by it all. As a photographer, she's privy to all kinds of eccentric and exciting events—Dolly Parton impersonators at Dollypalooza, models strutting the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, as well as the cult following of Wrestlemania. But, she says, the scene at Westminster Dog Show is like no other.
"It's pure chaos," as she describes it. "There's white powder flying in the air as groomers try to keep the white-haired dogs' coats looking fresh with cornstarch. You can hear loud sounds everywhere from hair dryers and dogs barking simultaneously. The range of emotions in the room is palpable—from anxiety and tension before the competition to elation and sadness coexisting at the end of it all."
Her newly released book, Best in Show, documents some of the wildest things she's witnessed backstage. "Dogs are way less self-conscious when it comes to being photographed!" Faibyshev says. "They could care less about how their hair looks, for example, which is a shame because this is the best they're ever gonna look."
Her visual style is marked by vibrant colors, bold perspectives, and a humorous scene of humanlike dogs and dog-like humans—someone's Bichon Frise brooch, a borzoi juxtaposed beside a handler's embroidered dog-themed jacket, a woman's blonde bouffant that ironically matches her top-prize poodle. There's a sense of humor in her perspective.
"I never really know until I find it," she says of capturing that perfect moment. "My day consists of circling around all through the grounds over and over until I see something magical—it could be a funny moment, heightened activity, a pop of color, or a dog that stands out from the rest."
And while she has no pets of her own—"I wish!" she exclaims—Faibyshev's fascination with the Dog Show has't left her biased towards canine companionship. "I'd have to have both a cat and a dog (or several), because I wouldn't be able to choose."
Photographs reprinted with permission from Best in Show by Dolly Faibyshev, published by Chronicle Chroma 2020.