Theron Humphrey of "Maddie on Things" on His Photogenic Pooch and Life on the Road
Theron Humphrey/@thiswildidea Theron Humphrey and his coonhound, Maddie.
Chances are you've seen Maddie on something. Be it balancing on a bicycle in Michigan or a basketball hoop in Iowa. Stretched out between two staircase railings in Pennsylvania or posing inside a giant watermelon in Mississippi. Driving a tractor in North Dakota or curled up inside a barbecue at a park in Wyoming.
These may not seem like events worth documenting, but Maddie is a dog -- a 3 1/2-year-old, 45-pound coonhound hailing from just outside Atlanta. The balancing act is in her nature, her human, Theron Humphrey says. And capturing such an event -- be it Maddie on a ladder or the roof of a car -- requires little more than a command and the promise of a treat. Humphrey began taking pictures of these often hilarious, sometimes human-looking scenes using his iPhone and posted them on Instagram.
The canine concept came to Humphrey last year, while trekking through all 50 states for a different Kickstarter-funded, 65,000-plus mile adventure, This Wild Idea. That project was picked up by National Geographic, which listed Humphrey as one of its Travelers of the Year in 2012. In each state, he found new and creative ways to capture Maddie's ability, creating an Instagram feed that has gathered a few hundred thousand followers and led to yet another project across America, dubbed Why We Rescue, and partnerships with animal-friendly brands like Petco.
Almost entirely due to the success and accessibility of platforms like Tumblr and Instagram (and the Internet's affinity for animals), the pictures of Maddie garnered hundreds of thousands of "likes" and "shares" across the Internet. Humphrey curated the images into a book, Maddie on Things: A Super Serious Project About Dogs and Physics, and the two embarked on a second journey across the country, this time in the form of a book tour.
Maddie and Humphrey will be at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe this weekend for a book signing and meet-and-greet. Humphrey called us from the road (naturally) outside Denver to talk about his canine companion, his favorite photography apps, and why everyone should host a traveler -- at least once.
How long have you been on tour for Maddie on Things: A Super Serious Project About Dogs and Physics?
We've been on the road for over five months now. We've got about five months left. We're halfway through.
Is 10 months on the road normal for you?
Well, last year I was on the road for a year just traveling alone. This year, my buddy (Garrett Cornelison) came with me. We're shooting a couple of documentaries while we're traveling, and he's helping me with the book tour. It's good; things are really good. The Denver stop was great, 100 people showed up. It's always really amazing and humbling to have people come out.
I've been following the tour online and via Instagram. It seems very interactive in terms of outreach with social media. Has that been an interesting aspect for you, to have people be privy to your adventures along that way?
Yeah. I think what's been fun about that is it's making the Internet tangible and real. So, it's not like I'm just some strange anomaly or anonymous person on the Internet. I'm a real dude with a dog! I think people come out obviously to say hi and meet me and meet Maddie, but it also validates the whole Internet because it's so easy to get lost online. [You] either read interesting stuff, or bad stuff, or just consume stuff -- you don't even know where it comes from. So, it's really special to authenticate the Internet and make it real. It's been pretty valuable this year to be able to do that.