An Adorable, Comical Dog: Photographer Rafael Mantesso Uses His Dog (Jimmy Choo) As A Creative Muse

©Rafael Mantesso

Jimmy Choo is an Internet sensation, a dog with an abundance of personality that we just can't resist. Illustrator and photographer Rafael Mantesso came to fully appreciate Jimmy's charm after his divorce when he found him self alone (and without furniture) in his stark white home. Mantesso rebuilt his life with the help of his dedicated dog pal through his unique works of art, which combine photography, illustration and a lot of whimsy.

Mantesso was born in 1983 in Carangola Minas Gerais, Brazil. He has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Rio de Janeiro’s ESPM (Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing). From 2003 to 2007, he worked as an Art Director for communications brand JWT and, later, in marketing and branding roles for L’Oreal. In 2005, he quit two graduate courses and decided to start a solo career. For six years, he ran the blog Marketing na Cozinha (Marketing in the Kitchen), about food trends. His approach caught the attention of chef Alex Atala. In 2012, Atala invited him to be a co-founder of Instituto ATÁ, which promotes Brazilian cuisine, fosters small producers and works to preserve the environment. For the past two years, he has also been involved in the work that culminated in this book.

Jimmy Choo is Rafael Mantesso’s beloved bull terrier. He’s from Belo Horizonte and loves balls, bones, a grey blanket and earphones. See more adorable mashups of Jimmy Choo and learn more about how Mantesso creates these canine portraits in our interview below.

©Rafael Mantesso

Shutterbug: Please give us some backround on your photography.

Mantesso: I started taking photos with my iPhone—I never studied photography. To shoot images for my new book I purchased a 5D mark III camera and I found the best configurations to shoot on my apartment. I don’t have a photography background.

©Rafael Mantesso

Shutterbug: What inspired you to create such wonderfully wacky portraits of Jimmy?

Mantesso: Jimmy loves to be the center of attention and our photo time is the way we stay together and have some fun. I find inspiration for new images in everything around me. I always think of Jimmy as the star so I never put him on a bad situation. Humor is always around us and I love to joke with him.

©Rafael Mantesso

Shutterbug: How do you decide what type of scene to draw around Jimmy and which props to use?

Mantesso: I began by drawing on the floor and the walls of my apartment. When drawing on each blank white wall I use an "infinite background" that I improvise and I use video projection to help me to draw and with the scenery I create for each shot.

©Rafael Mantesso

Shutterbug: How do you capture the images? What gear do you use and how do you enhance the shots with Photoshop?

Mantesso: I try to not use effects and Photoshop. I use Photoshop only after the shoot just to adjust the background and make some color corrections. Take a look at this short video, this is the way I shoot.

©Rafael Mantesso

Shutterbug: How do you get Jimmy to cooperate and stay still long enough to capture the images?

Mantesso: I spend a lot of time on the scenery and I need just 1 or 2 minutes with Jimmy on the specific position to get the best shot.

©Rafael Mantesso

Shutterbug: What advice would you give others who want to create fun pet portraits?

Mantesso: Create the right atmosphere for the images. Make your pet tired first, make the shoot fun and give him some snacks to thank your pet for their effort.

©Rafael Mantesso

Shutterbug: What other projects you working on these days? Can you give us some information about your book “A Dog Named Jimmy”?

Mantesso: I spend four months shooting images everyday to create the 150 photos for the book. It was hard work, with a lot of time spent planning the photos, creating the drawings and finding Jimmy’s best position. At the same time we were filming Jimmy Choo's commercial. My new project with Jimmy is a secret!

©Rafael Mantesso

Check out Jimmy and Rafael in this video.

More info on Rafael Mantesso here.

More info on “A Dog Named Jimmy” here.