The small, photo-driven magazine Pet People was one of the cutest titles to launch in 2015. With one foot in Stockholm and the other in Gothenburg, photographer Hilda Grahnat and designer Linnea Paulsson meet in a different city each issue to document loving relationships between pets and their people.
We met up with the duo to find out more about their passion project, their way of working, and their recent trip to Berlin for the second issue.
How did Pet People come about?
We always knew we wanted to do something together, and that it should be printed and involve animals. So when Linnea got an assignment from The Royal Danish School of Design with a completely open brief we had to do it. It started as a one-off project, but after spending one weekend in Malmö making the first issue we realised how strong the concept is and decided to continue doing it, one city at a time.
We’ve seen quite a few animal and pet magazines popping up recently – what makes Pet People stand out from the rest?
First of all, we didn’t want to limit Pet People to just one type of animals. But the thing we’re most interested in is the relationship and intimacy between pets and their people. It’s so great to meet pet/people couples whose personalities really match, and sometimes even their looks.
With both of you coming from visual arts I guess it’s only natural that the magazine is photo-driven. What’s your approach to the stories you tell?
Traditionally, photography is used to accompany the text, but we wanted to turn that around; photography is the main driver and determines how the story is told. In one way it’s documentary, but it’s also obviously styled and curated by us. So the stories are told through the photos, the environment we select for them and so on.
We like to treat the animals as subject rather than object, and it’s important to us that we meet somewhere they’re both comfortable and on their own terms. That way we try to capture their everyday habits. Visually, homes also say a lot about the people who live in them, so meeting and photographing them there adds another layer to the story.
How would you describe your work method?
Just like our individual work methods, the way we make Pet People is quite intuitive. For the environments, we always ask the people we’re meeting where they feel most comfortable. So we never really know what to expect, which also makes it really exciting.
And it’s the same with the stories. One of the questions we ask is “what’s the best thing with having [pet’s name] around?”. It opens up for reflection on what it means to live with an animal and how it makes a difference. We’ve been told some great stories from asking that question.
The method is also a natural result of our circumstances; we both work full time, live in separate cities, are self-employed and don’t have too much time or money to spend travelling. So we spend a few days on location for each issue and that’s all the time we get.
The challenges are definitely part of what makes Pet People what it is. We never know in advance what stories we’ll hear and how the photos will turn out. You just can’t plan too much when you’re dealing with animals.
Your latest issue is set in Berlin – tell me about your trip!
As usual, we hadn’t really planned it too much, but perhaps thanks to luck, it all went pretty smoothly. We spent a lot of time mapping out the order of our visits to make sure we didn’t spend more time on public transport than necessary.
What’s special about Berlin compared to Malmö is that a lot of the people we spoke to had moved there and taken their pets with them. The issue is an exploration of Berlin as a city for animals, and how moving there has influenced the lives of both the humans and the pets we visited.
The conclusion is that in Berlin, animals are a natural part of life. People take their pets with them wherever they go – to cafés, on public transport, to the office… In Sweden, dogs are kept on the leash and often act up when they meet other dogs, whereas in Berlin, they mostly walk free and they seem a lot calmer both in themselves and in meeting other animals.
You’ve said that this issue is your best one yet (out of two that is) – what makes it special?
I think we were really lucky with the mix of stories in this issue. It’s about the positives of living with animals and the kind of interdependence between pets and their people. We also met an animal who was sick and we spoke about how you prepare yourself to lose a pet.
Have you got any cities in mind for the next issues yet?
For practical reasons, and because we’d like to stick to our Scandinavian roots, we’re not going to travel too far from home. That said, it would be amazing to go to Tokyo. They have a completely different way of relating to animals in Japan, so that would be really interesting. One day!
Love independent magazines? Sign up to Stack and receive a different handpicked magazine direct to your door every month. And it makes a great Christmas gift!