Seth & Nala in Venice Beach, California Seth & Mylo collaborating in Los Angeles.
Seth Casteel is an award-winning photographer and the New York Times Best Selling Author of Underwater Dogs, Underwater Puppies, Underwater Babies and a trio of children's books. In February of 2012,Seth's series of photos showcasing dogs diving into swimming pools became an Internet sensation overnight, reaching over 100 million people in less than 24 hours. This sudden attention resulted in a book deal with Little, Brown and Company. Now with over half a million copies in print around the world, Underwater Dogs is one of the best selling photography books of all-time.
In 2007, Seth began volunteering to photograph homeless pets to help them find loving families. These improved, positive photos showcased unique personalities, resulting in countless adoptions.
Since then, Seth has developed a career as a Lifestyle Pet Photographer, accepting commissions and commercial assignments, collaborating with dozens of publishers and exhibiting his artwork in galleries around the world. His work has been published in National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times Magazine and in hundreds of other magazines, newspapers and calendars. Seth has appeared on Good Morning America, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS with Brian Williams, CBS This Morning, The Meredith Vieria Show, NPR Morning Edition, The Insider and Inside Edition. He has traveled the world in pursuit of his passion, working with animals on five continents. Seth's non-profit campaign, One Picture Saves a Life, inspires, empowers and educates animal ambassadors around the world to improve the image of rescue and adoption through positive photography.
Seth lives in Venice, CA. He loves 80's music and is a fan of the DeLorean automobile. He plans to one day go back in time, and change nothing. His rescue dog, Baby Nala, is his very best pal. People often say that Seth and Nala have similar hairstyles.
Q&A with Seth:
Where do you hail from?
Decatur, IL. Currently living in Venice, CA.
How old are you?
Where did you learn photography?
I am self-taught.
How did Underwater Dogs come about?
I was photographing a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Buster back in 2010 in his backyard in California. The photo shoot was meant to be "On-land", but Buster decided he would rather be in the pool. As I watched him dive in over and over again chasing his favorite mini tennis ball, I thought, "What does he look like under there!!". I left, bought a little point-and-shoot underwater camera, zipped back and jumped in. The resulting photos were the beginning of the series of Underwater Dogs.
I heard that you spent the last $ on your credit card to buy an Underwater Camera housing?
The point-and-shoot camera was a good start, but I needed improved gear to fully pursue this project, so I spent the last available credit I had on my credit card to buy an underwater housing designed for Surf Photographers. My friends told me, "Why are you doing that! You should photograph weddings!". I said, "I am not a wedding photographer. I am a dog photographer." Months later to my surprise, the series of images I created with the housing became a viral sensation on the Internet, resulting in a book deal with Little, Brown and Company, opportunities with National Geographic and the New York Times, International Art Exhibitions and and the launch of OnePictureSaves.com.
What does Underwater Dogs mean to you?
It is one of my life's pursuits to explore the emotion of dogs and is my belief that they have a range of emotions similar to human beings. Buster helped me to realize that many dogs have an incredible connection with the water that goes back thousands of years when dogs were wolves. Today, in many homes, dogs enjoy a life of luxury - sleeping in bed with us, fancy treats, the pet salon. As much as they enjoy these things, dogs have wild instincts and have a need to explore them. The water is simply one of the best ways for them to do this. Curious - Playful - Focused - Primal. All of the dogs featured in this project chose to participate of their own free will. Before meeting me, most of them had never been underwater before and some had never even been swimming. Dogs prove to us that if you just jump in, you might have fun along the way. Dogs inspire us!
Those pictures are fake! Tennis balls don't sink!
When the series become popular online, I was startled on many levels, but especially startled that quite a few people assumed the images were fake because of the tennis balls floating underwater. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a tennis ball WILL sink if you simply cut a small hole in it. You can also use "squeaker tennis balls" designed for dogs, and when you squeak one underwater, it slowly fill with water, which alters the the buoyancy. Come on now ya'll! :)
What kind of gear do you use?
I shoot with Canon cameras and lenses, and IKELITE Underwater Systems housings and strobes.
Do you scuba dive during photo shoots?
If the dogs are scuba diving, I'd be scuba diving, but it has been our collaborative decision to simply hold our breath.
Tell us about the making of Underwater Puppies?
This book is the official sequel (or prequel?) to Underwater Dogs and features 72 swimming puppies from 6 weeks to 6 months of age! To create this series of photos, I taught swimming lessons to over 1500 puppies, helping them build confidence and safety skills in the water. Many of the puppies only swam for a few minutes and learned about buoyancy, their physicality in the water and most importantly, how to get out of a pool, but some of the puppies immediately thrived and began playing, jumping in and chasing toys! A big thank you to all of the amazing Animal Rescue Organzations who helped to make this book possible by providing wonderful puppies! Adoption is a great option!
What is the message of Underwater Puppies?
#1 - Water Safety for Pets. Each year, thousands of pets drown in backyard swimming pools in the United States because proper safety measures have not been taken by their human companions. These terrible tragedies can be prevented. If you are a pool owner or your dog has access to a pool, please consider all precautions including limiting access to the pool, alarms, proper pool exits and most importantly, teaching your pet how to get out of the pool in case they choose to go in, or accidentally fall in. A swimming pool is not a natural body of water which means pets naturally don't understand the concept. Many people assume that their pets "won't go into the pool" or they simply deny their dog the right to go in and learn. This mentality is directly putting your dog in danger because at some point, your dog will be in that pool and it is absolutely critical that he or she is prepared.
#2 - Rescue and Adoption - I worked with hundreds of adoptable puppies from animal rescue groups all over the United States. The goal was to feature some Amazing Rescue Puppy Ambassadors to remind people that adopion is a wonderful option! There are so many AWESOME pets that need loving families and I hope you'll consider bringing a shelter pet into your life.
#3 - I LOVE PUPPIES!!!!!!!!! PUPPIES ARE THE MOST AMAZING CREATURES ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH!
Why Underwater Babies?
Through advocating water safety for pets, I became aware that water safety for children was also very serious issue. After watching a few infant swim classes and learning of the associated benefits, I realized I could possibly help to bring awareness to this cause through a series of joyful images.
Drowning is the #1 cause of accidental death of children under the age of five in the United States. Infant swimming lessons can help to reduce the risk of drowning by up to 88%. By creating this book, I hope to encourage and inspire parents to consider swim lessons for their children, with the ultimate goal of preventing tragedies.
UNDERWATER CATS. Just kidding. I did actually buy the website just in case the world flips upside down and dogs become cats and cats become dogs though. The new book is entitled POUNCE and will feature dozens of rescue cats and kittens demonstrating why their species is one of the most incredible on earth. The book will be published October 2016.
If you dream it, you can achieve it! I went from a struggling photographer with $50,000 in debt to one of the most successful photographers ever. Believe in yourself, work hard, love what you do and do something to make the world a better place. I truly believe the combination of these four things is absolutely unstoppable.