Last fall, we traveled to a venue in New Jersey to photograph Brent Smith of Shinedown and a rescue pup for the Soft Side campaign. We’d already heard the stories about how the band would sometimes contact a local shelter for “puppy therapy” while on tour so knew this would be a match made in heaven. We were 100% right.
The minute we walked into the venue with Daffney, a 13-week old puppy with soulful eyes, all concert preparations stopped. One after another, the crew took turns holding her and getting puppy kisses and cuddles. We were so taken aback by the outpouring of love, we didn’t even notice that Zach Myers was on stage warming up. On the other hand, Zach did notice us – correction, he noticed Daffney and within minutes, his guitar was down and in its place was a curled up, purring puppy.
Eventually we were able to make our way into a kitchen/laundry room to set up for a shoot that we’d be told would last precisely, exactly, not-one-second-longer than… 20 minutes. Apparently, no one told Brent Smith because once he arrived, he was happy to stay as long as Daffney was in his lap. But what surprised us all was that within seconds of taking her into his arms, he noticed something that neither we – nor the rescue – had. Daffney had a bulging lump on her puppy groin. A discussion ensued about how common it was for puppies to have hernias, but Brent Smith wasn’t buying it – he wanted assurances that Daffney would be seen by a vet ASAP. The rescue’s foster agreed and we proceeded with the shoot. Over the course of the next hour, he never once looked at his watch or made us feel like our time was running out. Brent was lost in a puppy named Daffney and, for as long as that lasted, time stood still.
A few weeks later, we sent off his layout for approval. Within hours, we received a question in response. That’s not unusual. Often times, Softies will ask “Can I see other shots?” “Do you have any where I’m smiling?” “Could you get rid of that wrinkle on my forehead.?” Not so for Brent Smith. His only question was, “Has that puppy been to the vet?”
There was a time, early on, when if someone agreed to be in the campaign, we jumped on it. We’ve since become a lot more discerning. Truth is, it’s hard NOT to be choosy when you’ve got guys like Brent Smith who are the bona fide real thing.