Photographer Greg Murray Finds Crunchy Success with Peanut Butter-Eating Dogs

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Sat 3/11 4-9PM

This is a safe environment where you won’t be judged. It’s OK to admit you’ve spent hours at work avoiding your TPS reports and Penske Files, and instead watched one funny video of animals after another. Damn you, BuzzFeed, the internet equivalent of meth where you just need one more “Aah”-inspiring hit before returning to your (our) mundane lives.

Regarding the latter, Greg Murray is all too familiar with the scenario having spent a decade working in human resources before deciding to merge his love of photography and animals.

Today the Lakewood resident makes his living as an animal photographer. He recently tapped into the viral cute animal video zeitgeist with a series of photos featuring dogs eating peanut butter. Instantly, the 2000 St. Ignatius High School graduate gained national attention. Now he’s about to release his debut book, Peanut Butter Dogs.

CoolCleveland talked to Murray about the lip-smacking concept, the new book release party Sat 3/11 Butcher & The Brewer  in downtown Cleveland and why he prefers animal photography.

How does one get started in animal photography?

After spending 10 years in human resources, I got sick of it, to be completely honest. I needed a change. I did photography on the side. I really liked animals, and I turned it into full-time profession. I’ve been doing it for three years now and doing really well.

So how does that life-changing conversation — “Hey, Honey, guess what!” — go with your wife, Kristen?

She was my girlfriend at the time and my wife now. I would say she was worried, but also very supportive. I like talking about this because when I was in HR, it definitely had a negative impact on our relationship and my physical and mental wellbeing. I wasn’t happy. I was bringing my work home. I had a job where I was dealing with employee relations issues. I fired people and hired people. So it was time to stop doing that and to do this. She was very happy, but also extremely worried because how many full-time animal photographers are out there?

Regarding photographs of dogs eating peanut butter, how did that come about?

About this time last year, I was kind of bored. It’s a slower time when it comes to animal photography. I started calling up friends and clients and photographing their dogs eating peanut butter just to make people laugh and smile. It was like doing a little series of fun photos. It quickly blew up. Huffington Post called, The Today Show called. The Daily Mail and San Francisco Chronicle called too. It just went wild. I did a Kickstarter to self-publish a book of dogs eating peanut butter. Luckily, a publisher out of Utah called me and signed me to a book deal. Here we are today, the book a year in the making is coming out on March 14 and the book release party is on March 11.

How did you land on peanut butter? Also, we are talking organic, right?

A couple of years ago we had a rescue mastiff. She had long jowls and droopy ears. She just looked kind of sad. When I photographed Bailey, I’d give her peanut butter to make her look more animated and happy. That was my first peanut butter photo. She has since passed, but I dedicated the book to Bailey. It just makes dogs look funny, makes people smile. It’s just hilarious. And I use an all-natural peanut butter. It’s actually a company called Dog For Dog. They make peanut butter geared towards dogs. But you should know, there is peanut butter you don’t want to give to your dog. It’s called Xylitol, and it’s hard to find in the U.S.

What do you have planned for the March 11 event?

That’s a book release party at Butcher and Brewer. It’s also a fundraiser for Neighborhood Pets Outreach & Resource Center, which is part of Friends of the Cleveland Kennel. They help people who have fallen on hard financial times and can’t care for their pets. So this is also a food drive and fundraiser for them. As far as the books, I’ll have 500 to 600 on hand. And based on feedback and sales already, we’re expecting to sell out on March 11. Printing-wise, it was 3,000 books and the publisher sold out a couple of weeks ago. Retailers picked up all of the books, so they had to do a second printing already. It’s very exciting. The feedback has been amazing.

Finally, what’s up with photographing only animals? What do you have against people?

I want to be 100 percent animal photography, which I pretty much am. It’s also demand. I’m at a point in my career that I have enough people contact me every day for shoots. And, animals are much easier to work with than people. It’s just much less pressure. I’m a very, very patient person. You have to be when you deal with animals.

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