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We Chat With Roy Varga, the Dog-Loving Pinup Photographer

As a fan of his work, I was thrilled to take part in a Roy Varga photo shoot -- and to talk about his Pit Bull, June Carter Cash!

Kezia Willingham  |  Oct 8th 2015


I’ve been a fan of Roy Varga’s pinup photography from the very moment I discovered his work on Instagram and Facebook. With more 36,000 fans combined following those accounts, this artist clearly has a significant number of others who admire his skill in photographing modern women in a classic retro style.

I couldn’t help but imagine how fun it would be to participate in such a photo shoot, but unfortunately the traveling photographer didn’t seem to be in the Pacific Northwest often. And with my paycheck-to-paycheck working-class lifestyle, I certainly didn’t have the funds to fly anywhere to participate in something quite so indulgent.

(Photo courtesy Roy Varga's Instagram page)

Roy Varga and his dog, June Carter Cash. (Photo courtesy Roy Varga’s Instagram page)

So last spring, when I saw that the Varga tour was coming to Seattle, I made the impractical but fun decision to invest in a photo shoot for the first time in my life. Turns out, it also gave me an excellent opportunity to chat with him about his sweet dog, June Carter Cash.

While I’ve had family portraits taken with my kids at Kmart and JC Penney, I’ve never had a formal sitting the way some folks do for senior portraits or wedding pics or whatever. I’m the lady who got married to my ex wearing a Hanes white T-shirt and jeans when I was four months pregnant.

I felt guilty making the charge on my credit card for this event, but at the same time, at 41, I knew I wasn’t getting any younger or any thinner, and YOLO, right?

I bought myself a gorgeous leopard-print dress from Pinup Girl Clothing, got my nails done, and made sure to get a fresh haircut and dye job (having a teenage daughter helps when you have to apply dye on the regular).

(Photo by Roy Varga)

Me. (Photo by Roy Varga)

The truth is, in this photo shoot, I lived out a fantasy that I’ve had for years. I’ve always had a fantasy about getting married in Las Vegas while wearing a leopard-print dress. Also, I’ve always had a fantasy about being photographed with hot cars. And I’ve also always fantasized about getting my nails done exactly as I did for the photo shoot.

In my daily life, I am an overwhelmed single mother who works two jobs, cares for two kids, and basically lives in my self-operated residential animal shelter. I’m a T-shirt-and-jeans gal who is more pragmatic than femme. And for my daily life, that works best for me.

As the date of the photo shoot drew near, I began to worry about all of the details, so let’s just say that it came as a pleasant surprise when everything happened in a totally chill, relaxed manner. To top it off, my photography idol was not only hot as hell but as nice as well.

Photo of Kezia WIllingham by Varga Photography

Me (Photo by Roy Varga)

A true gentleman, Varga was calm, cool, and collected in person, perhaps even a bit shy, which makes a person that much more attractive in my book. Even better, his lovely dog, June Carter Cash, was on the set, which made my day. June is a white Pit Bull who often appears in Roy’s Instagram account, so getting to meet her in person was as good as meeting the photographer himself. I took a few photos of him and June in the scorching heat, and we agreed to do a followup interview later via email.

Our interview touches on the challenges of life on the road with a dog and on shelter adoption policies that, unfortunately, weed out potential adopters who live unconventional lifestyles.

June Carter Cash loves to balance things on her head. (Photo courtesy VRoy Varga's Instagram page)

June Carter Cash loves to balance things on her head. (Photo courtesy Roy Varga’s Instagram page)

Kezia Willingham for Dogster: Have you always been a dog person, or is this a love you discovered later in life?

Roy Varga: I grew up in a traditional Hispanic home where dogs were considered dirty animals. We often had dogs, but they were never considered pets. They were more for security.

Roy and June hit the road together. (Photo courtesy Roy Varga's Instagram page)

Roy and June hit the road together. (Photo courtesy Roy Varga’s Instagram page)

We talked a little about how you really wanted to adopt a dog from a shelter, but encountered prohibitive adoption policies. Can you talk about the challenges you faced?

Well, the hurdle that I encountered was that since I travel year-round, I technically don’t have a set residence. Although I work odd hours sometimes, June is rarely ever alone and often gets to socialize with other dogs as well as people in all kinds of situations.

Photo courtesy Roy Varga's Instagram page)

Such willpower. (Photo courtesy Roy Varga’s Instagram page)

What is your favorite breed of dog?

I have always loved Pit Bulls.

What are the things you do to make traveling easier for June? 

Well, we drive everywhere, so we usually will stop every two hours so she can stretch her legs and walk around. She is great in the car and will often just sleep for hours on end.

What’s the hardest thing, if any, about life on the road with a dog? What’s the greatest thing?

June is my first real dog, and I’ve spoiled her, so she sleeps in bed with me, and I guess the hardest thing is that there are so many places that are not pet friendly.

I feel like I have a best friend with me all the time. June makes everything fun, and you can tell she just loves life and is always thinking.

Roy has a tattoo of June to keep her with him always.

Roy has a tattoo of June to keep her with him always. (Photo courtesy Roy Varga)

What suggestions do you have for people who want to book photo shoots with you and with a pet?

We all like to believe that our pets are well-trained, but the reality is it often takes a while to get that great shot, so I often suggest scheduling some extra time.

Thanks for the interview, Roy!

Roy travels the continental United States year-round and works with various local makeup and hair artists to craft beautiful pinup-style photographs for each subject. If you’d like to learn more about Roy or book a photo shoot with him, I suggest following him on Facebook, where his tour schedule is posted and updated.

Read more interviews by Kezia Willingham:

About Kezia Willingham: Also known as the Breadwinning Laundry Queen, Kezia Willingham is a former high school dropout and single mother on welfare who earned two college degrees and works as the health coordinator for an urban Head Start program and writes for Catster, Dogster, and xoJane.com. Her writing has also been published in the New York Times and Seattle Times. She has an essay in Blended: Writers on the Stepfamily Experience edited by Samantha Waltz. Kezia lives in Seattle with her family, which includes a pack of rescued cats, dogs, and mice. You can follow her @KeziaWillingham.