How These Incredible Diving Dogs Went From Obscurity To Worldwide Fame And Fortune

dogs under water

Photo: Seth Casteel / Tandem Stock (with permission)

You’ve probably seen photographer Seth Casteel’s photos of dogs diving under water. They charmed everyone when they went viral in February.But there’s more to the story than just a bunch of random photos getting dumped on Reddit.

In fact, the diving dogs took 15 years to become an overnight success.

And since February, they’ve gotten ad contracts and a book deal.

Here’s how it happened.

It started in 1997, when Jill Reger — an advertising photographer by trade — began experimenting underwater with black-and-white film that shoots in infra-red.

When the film is processed through blue and yellow sepia toners, it produces these amazingly deep colours.

It was the era before the internet became universal in the U.S. Most of the pictures were never seen by anyone except Reger.

Fast-forward to 2011. Freelance photographer Seth Casteel was trying to make a living as a pet and commercial photographer.

On October 13, Casteel posted three pictures of dogs diving into backyard pools on a Facebook page. The images were interesting but not great. Here's one:

On Oct. 14, 2011, Casteel posted this photo on Facebook. It was the first one he published that truly revealed the bewitching intensity of a dog trying to find a tennis ball in a swimming pool.

On Feb. 9, 2012, an art web site called Warholian posted a set of Casteel's photos on its Facebook page, including this incredible image:

A couple of days later, people began recommending the photos on Reddit ...

And then suddenly they were everywhere. A gallery published with Casteel's permission on Feb. 15 got half a million pageviews on Business Insider.

Casteel's problem, however, was that everyone was circulating the images for free.

Casteel is represented by Tandem Stills + Motion, which has tried to enforce Casteel's copyrights to the work.

The photos were so popular, Casteel got more than 1,000 requests from people who wanted him to shoot their pets.

Casteel was able to raise his rates. Now he charges $995 and up for a swimming pool shoot.

Casteel has also used the publicity to promote Second Chance, a dog adoption agency.

In March, one of the dogs—Bardot—got a TV show.

Then Casteel got an offer from a hot sauce company wanting to use the dogs in its ads.

Casteel contracted with Y&R Saõ Paulo to do an ad campaign. In early June, the dogs starred in ads for Cepêra Extra Strong Pepper Sauce.

Cesar 'Dog Whisperer' Milan even dropped by for a visit.

In 2013, the dogs will get their own calendar.

Casteel's images were such a huge hit, we asked Reger to go back to her storage unit and develop all the original diving dog images she had, like this one.

In October, a coffee table book will be published.

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