Sally Anne Thompson

‹‹Sally Anne Thompson

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About Sally Anne Thompson

A true pioneer of the art, Sally Anne Thompson has combined highly developed photographic skills and an extraordinary ability
to get the best out of her subjects, to produce the most unique, striking, and elegant animal images. In a career spanning over
50 years. Sally Anne has consistently set the gold standard, capturing the essence of each and every animal she has photographed with an unmatched purity and quality. Sally Anne
and her breathtaking work has and will continue to inspire us
all for years to come.

Sally Anne Thompson was born into the photography business. Her father, John de Forest Thompson, was head of Scaioni's Studio – a fashion photography studio based in Marylebone, London – which was renowned for its innovative, high quality shoots.

When the young Sally Anne rejected the future mapped out for her at finishing school, and persuaded her father to teach her the family trade, it was assumed she would follow in his footsteps.

Sally Anne undertook an apprenticeship under the demanding tutelage of her father. Starting in the darkroom, she was groomed to become a fashion photographer, and take up a position in Scaioni's Studio, but this was of little interest to Sally Anne, whose real passion lay in photographing dogs, cats and horses – a pursuit dismissed by many as a waste of time and talent.

Undeterred, Sally Anne continued to photograph cats, dogs, horses and many other animals in her free time. Developing not only her photographic skills, but also a unique way with animals, which allowed her to photograph them at their best.

Opportunity knocks
The opportunity for Sally Anne to turn that passion into a career came when French publisher Éditions Larousse commissioned Scaioni's Studio to supply images of English dogs – an unusual request for a fashion studio. Sally Anne, of course, jumped at the chance to assist with the assignment, and took the opportunity take pictures of the subjects – Windswift Salukis – for herself too. Vera Watkins, owner of the Salukis, loved Sally Anne’s pictures and suggested that there may be potential in her operating as a dog photographer. Sally took the advice, and quickly gained a reputation in her chosen field for the quality and finish of her photographs.

Sally Anne’s big break came in 1962, when then Chairman of The Kennel Club, Colonel Sir Richard Glyn, was planning the production of Champion Dogs of the World, an illustrated book on dog breeds. George G Harrup & Co Ltd, publishers of the book, commissioned Sally Anne to travel Europe and America to photograph dogs chosen by Sir Richard’s team as top specimens of their breeds. On its release in 1967 the book received rave reviews and broke all records for the sale of a dog book at Crufts. This unprecedented success paved the way for two more publications: The World’s Finest Horses and Ponies and Champion Cats of the World, both photographed by Sally Anne.

The industry standard
Sally Anne has combined the perfectionism of her photographic training with her extensive knowledge of dog breeds, and her unique talent for getting the best from her subjects. 'I like the dogs in my pictures to have a sort of proud, self-sufficient look' she says. 'Almost a look of superiority, not appealing to the viewer for anything.'

Sally produced the first of her own books in 1989: Photographing Dogs. In it, Sally Anne revealed the secrets of her technique for capturing images of dogs, explaining how to establish a relationship with the subject, how to pose it, the problems of backgrounds and viewpoints and offered hints and tips on lighting, film, exposure, darkroom techniques. Photographing Dogs has been an inspiration to many people and although it is out of print there is still a great demand for copies.
Her images have been used throughout the world in specialist publications, calendars, books and advertising, and continue to be admired and enjoyed.

Sally Anne today
Sally Anne Thompson is still very much active in the animal world, working with her husband Ron, a photographer with highly developed skills in animal handling, and who has also contributed many of the 35mm images in our library.

She is a past President of the Norfolk Terrier Club of Great Britain, a co-editor of the Club's website and active in greyhound Rescue.

Sally and Ron live on the Isle of Wight and have two rescued greyhounds and will always mourn their much loved Norfolk Terrier, ‘Kevin’.

Sally's picture selection

The magical Akhal Teke horse

Akhal Teke, a stunning golden horse, Photo © Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson
AP-1ZA4FH - Akhal Teke horse
© Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson

What a horse the Akhal Teke is! Thank heavens that the handlers at the Hippodrome Piatigorsk were happy to have the patience to spend time in posing him correctly in the classic pose - and how lucky were we to have blue sky and sunshine to make this stallion our wonderful golden horse - without the sun the colour is quite dull. I've seen our pictures of this horse pop up all over the internet as THE reference to the breed.

Kabardine horse

Kabardine stallion held by cossack in Caucasus mountains, Photo © Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson
AP-0GT5KP - Kabardine horse
© Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson

It was out of this world in the Caucasus Mountains where we photographed the Kabardine horses. The stallions run with their mares in a group known as taboons so first the chosen one has to be caught by the cossacks. Then we were asked 'Shall we kill the sheep and eat first? Or photographs first?' It was of course eat first, mutton, bread, yogurt and vodka. We had an interpreter so life was much easier than in some of our travels, but it was tricky finding a spot to pose the horse that had the right slope, the right sun direction, Mt Elbrus in the background - and then pass instructions to the Cossack handler to get everything right.
On the rocky road down from the mountains in the Land Rover type vehicle, surrounded by horse blankets and tack smelling strongly of horse, my brother said he was going to be sick had taken 5 Bisodol, should he take more? I told him to be sick in the hood of my jacket.

Siamese cat and kitten

Seal Point Siamese cat with her kitten in her arms, Photo © Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson
AP-QMF36I - Seal point siamese
© Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson

It was early in my career that I photographed this cat and kitten - subsequently I bought my first cat, a little runt Siamese kitten, Tiny Tim, from the owner, a neighbour in Marylebone Mews. These two are lying against another cat and the picture is unposed with simple lighting which I remember I was rather ashamed of at the time thinking it should have been more exotic in some way. But I soon learnt that complicated lighting, as one might use for human portraiture, is useless for animals because there's no knowing where they will take up a pose in relation to the lights. So it is usually best for the main light to be at the front, near the camera, to cover all situations. My lighting always had to be portable and able to be set up in the owners' homes - without being tripped over; I seldom used the sophisticated studio lighting that is so effective today.

Champion Montravia
Tommy Gun

Standard Poodle, Champion Montravia Tommy Gun, Photo © Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson
AP-BP4BNR - Standard poodle
© Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson

I had to choose Champion Montravia Tommy Gun, that wonderful Standard Poodle, Best in Show at Crufts (BIS)- walking on water.
Not only did his owner, equally famous Marita Rogers, agree to spend a day on our pictures but she took him to Frensham Ponds and let the great dog, with his superb show coat, play in the water. As true stars do, he was put on a splendid show for us. The processors spoilt one roll, it came out purple, but I had only put one roll of Tommy Gun into that batch so the rest were saved.

Peruvian Hairless Dog

Peruvian Hairless Dog, Photo © Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson
AP-08US0H - Peruvian hairless dog
Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson

There are times when you just like a picture but don't know why. I like the incongruous cows on the collar of this Peruvian Hairless Dog, Brilliant Elimar photographed in the Czech Republic. There are also the dotted flowers in the background. I was taught never to let the background muddle with the subject which these do.

Shergar at Tattenham Corner

Thoroughbred, Shergar,18, at tattenham corner, the derby, Photo © Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson
AP-0ELNG7 - Thoroughbred, Shergar
© Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson

The claim to fame here is Shergar - at Tattenham Corner on his way to winning the Derby in record style before his tragic kidnap and presumed death. My Hasselblad did not have a motor so this was my only picture and a reward for some planning, pushing, and luck at hitting the right moment in the horse's stride.

Green Mamba

Green Mamba snake, Photo by Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson
AP-1FI2QX - Green Mamba snake
© Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson

The Green Mamba is a fearsome snake and I am proud of this photograph taken in the wild - although I must admit it had a handler - the famous and much loved herpetologist C J P Ionides. I travelled with my brother in Africa and our father had been at school with the great man and arranged for us to go to his home darkest Tanzania where he caught snakes and supplied them to the serum station in S.Africa where their venom was milked. A few days after this picture was taken Iodine, as he was known, picked up a baby green mamba, mistaking it for a vine snake and was bitten. I had to get serum from his collection in the Land Rover (a different one for each snake type) and inject it into his backside. He refused to go to the Mission, ' they would kill me', he said, and he sat talking all afternoon to John while I rested up under the mosquito net with shock. We were terrified that he would die and we'd be blamed.

Chinese Crested dog

Champion Chinese crested dog, Photo © Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson
AP-0YWKKX - Chinese Crested dog
© Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson

Champion Aes Blue Dy-Amond for Movalian, the charming Chinese Crested bitch in a study of hairlessness and wind blown locks - plus stone. This combination appeals to me and I love her intense expression.


Noteworthy images

We asked Sally to pick out her favourite images from some of our other photographers work.

Handsome chicken

Handsome Brown Leghorn Rooster, Photo © Animal Photography, Barbara O Brien
AP-0IU25S - Leghorn Chicken
© Animal Photography, Barbara O Brien

This picture caught my eye the moment I saw Barbara's page of photographs. It has a classic style and the extremely handsome bird and simple background are all that is needed to make this a picture to enjoy and to hang on your wall. Not as easy to take as it looks too.

Perfect pose

Abyssinian cat, Photo © Animal Photography, Sally Anne Thompson
AP-09U1R7 - Abyssinian cat
© Animal Photography, Helmi Flick

The soft lighting and subtle tones in the abyssinian cat and the background are beautiful before the cat even starts to pose. I don 't know of any cat who will stretch to order so catching the opportunity of the cat looking so wonderful, as well as the colours, makes this a great picture.

Every inch the family pet

Labrador Retriever, Photo © Animal Photography, Robin Burkett
AP-OHSOB4 - Labrador Retriever
© Animal Photography, Robin Burkett

This shows a dog who is every inch the family pet and who is content with life but yet waiting for something good to happen - that's a happy dog's lot. I imagine it wasn't posed because that expression looks real and the background colours look like home and give it the look of an old masters' painting.

White on white

2 Sphynx cats, Photo © Animal Photography, Vidar Skauen
AP-0TLFLJ - Sphynx cats
© Animal Photography, Vidar Skauen

Am I right that some of the cats pictured by Vidar would bring a cry of fear if projected full size on a cinema screen in a horror film? You certainly need to love cats to want to cuddle some of them in your arms! I have ducked out of the most impressive shots and chosen this one where the cats are so sweet and asking to be loved. Vidar's images are incredibly crisp, and White on white was always a challenge and this image is gorgeous in its subtle tones and composition.

The three dog challenge

Ex-racing greyhounds, Photo © Animal Photography, Judi Zatonski
AP-MKGTDX - Ex-racing greyhounds
© Animal Photography, Judy Zatonski

Photographing three dogs together is often the very devil with the problem of keeping them in place while attracting their attention to get the keen look with good ears - luckily not neatly perfect show greyhound ears since these are ex-racers and it does not matter - but the whole scene ideally must portray the hounds as the classic speedsters they are. Soft lighting and the dogs' colours make this a lovely picture.

Dog fascination

Bull Terrier and Labrador retrievers, Photo © Animal Photography, Alice van Kempen
AP-TKDYVQ - Bull terrier & Labrador retriever
© Animal Photography, Alice van Kempen

I love this picture! What's going on I wonder? It has a nice symmetry, a certain fascination and an amazing grey background so I can indulge my 'grey phase'. Anyone who loves dogs will love this picture too.

Catching the moment

West Highland white, Photo © Animal Photography, David Jensen
AP-ZTLLS6 - West Highland white
Photo © Animal Photography, David Jensen

A fabulous woodland scene and it could be beyond your wildest dreams that the dog would pose like this to make the picture - and you be ready to catch the moment! I've had the odd dog that I could place in scenes and who would stay for long enough for the picture - very useful they are too, but you need the scene and the right light and this is exceptional.

Capturing a feeling 

Greyhound / Mongrel looking very sad, Photo © Animal Photography, Britta Jaschinski
AP-0SUFFY - Greyhound / Mongrel
Photo © Animal Photography, Britta Jaschinski

If you have a picture like this you could hope for a request for a dog fed up and not a happy bunny... We have put bandages on a dog for a photograph and he immediately thought he was badly hurt - this dog feels that something is up and the picture says it all.

Split second

British shorthaired kitten, Photo © Animal Photography, Paul Cotney
AP-0MBM8I - British shorthair
Photo © Animal Photography, Paul Cotney

What a gorgeous chubby little chap quietly engaged in sorting out his toy mouse. What a look of intense endeavour to get it just right. All in all it makes a most engaging picture with the kitten caught almost timelessly at just the right moment - of course he will only have held this pose for a fraction of a second and then would probably have been trying to fling himself off the table or climb the background with handlers rushing in to catch him.

Getting everything right

Abyssinian kittens, Photo © Animal Photography, Alan Robinson
AP-TDCODX - Abyssinian
Photo © Animal Photography, Alan Robinson

Kittens are usually photographed looking sweet and charming on jolly backgrounds whereas this photograph has the air of a Japanese silk paining and a slightly mysterious feel to it. When I began photographing animals most of the requests from picture buyers were for cute shots, the more bows in the hair and kittens in pint pots, as we used to call it, the better. I said firmly that I did not do that - my pictures were serious. (Mind you if an ultra cute shot just happened I was quite pleased!) To me this dark and rather sombre treatment of the kittens is splendid.

A dog being a dog

Great dane playing in paddling pool, Photo © Animal Photography, Anita Peeples
AP-TYX8X9 - Great Dane
Photo © Animal Photography, Anita Peeples

Capturing a dog at play is one of the most difficult pictures to get. Anita has this wonderful knack of being able to photograph animals in all sorts of new ways. This image is a particular favourite of mine, it is such a fun shot - the dog is clearly enjoying itself, the lighting, lovely colours and silk-like tones in the dog's coat all caught beautifully.