“It gives me so much happiness to know my work and passion make the world smile every day,” says creative photographer Danielle Dierking Brock. She combines things that give us all the feels and turns them into humorous and glamorous images. Her photo series, Chonk Daddies, has plenty to offer from chickens, cats, and feminine daddies. But why? Let’s find out.
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You’ve heard of sugar daddies, but what about chicken and chonk daddies? Brock bypassed the sugar and opted to focus on a series that posed men with their cats and chickens. On paper, this may sound leftfield, and the photographs certainly continue that train of thought. However, beyond the surprise factor, these photographs are a lot of fun to spend time with, and they challenge gender stereotypes, adding a layer to an already compelling body of work.
Fans of the unseen, we were determined to learn more about why this photographer (who is turning the series into a calendar) had the inspiration to develop this style of photography.
Gear Used by Danielle Dierking Brock
I use a Canon 5D Mark IV and the only lens I ever use is a Sigma 35mm f1.4. Other lenses do not give the same effect on these shots. I’ve used a wide-angle lens for only one shot where I needed to capture the cityscape behind the model. For lighting, I use speed lights outdoors, but since many of my shoots are now primarily indoors, I recently purchased Mountdog, a no-frills continuous lighting set to make the process much more simple.
Phobographer: What inspired you to start Chonk Daddies?
Danielle Dierking Brock: Oddly enough, it actually started with chickens, not cats! In early 2021, It all started with a viral internet trend called the “Target Dress Challenge.” I asked my partner Tim if he would pose for a silly photoshoot wearing a prairie-style dress from Target with our chickens. Without batting an eye, he shrugged, “Sure, why not?” Soon after, the photoshoot received the positive attention of over ten thousand viewers on social media, I decided to turn the concept into a series of calendars with different themes and officially branded it Chicken Daddies and at that point it really took off. Chonk Daddies featuring men with their big, beautiful cats (one of my other favorite pets) was launched the following year in 2022.
Phobographer: This project is full of humor. Talk about your usual approach to photography and what influences the way you make images.
Danielle Dierking Brock: These images have had a significant impact on viewers in a positive way. My goal is to make you laugh and smile every day and I believe there are several key components to making this work so effectively with both Chicken Daddies and Chonk Daddies. Firstly, the images are completely original, unusual, and nothing else exists like it. Secondly, the images feature cute animals. Also, the men in these images are having so much fun and you can clearly see that. And finally, the men are wearing feminine clothing or there is a touch of femininity in their posing. In a way, this can be and will be viewed as humorous, but I also believe that it has helped redefine what is viewed as sexy or attractive: it isn’t the clothing they are wearing. They are wearing their bold sense of humor on their sleeve, and this is the most attractive of all.
Phobographer: How have you marketed this project to get people (and their cats) involved? Is there a pattern in the type of people who respond?
Danielle Dierking Brock: I have a form on my website to collect applications for those who would like to be models. All people who respond have an awesome sense of humor. I have really enjoyed meeting and becoming friends with all of these men!
Phobographer: These are far from standard portraits. How do you develop each scene?
Danielle Dierking Brock: In regards to Chonk Daddies, I wanted it to feel like “grandma’s house.” I came up with a list of wholesome activities a grandmother might enjoy doing, and so each dad will be doing one of these activities with their cat. I wanted it to feel really wholesome, endearing, and also playful. Each scene requires immaculate planning on my end and with the model as well. The scenes always take place at the model’s residence in order to keep the kitty feeling safe and comfortable. Most houses these days do not look like “grandma’s house” anymore, so this has required me to make endless trips to the thrift store to find the perfect pieces of decorations, artwork, and small details to bring over and setup.
I’ve had to do this while traveling as well, which is quite difficult. I’ve gone thrift shopping in Canada before meeting one of the dads and have shipped props to another dad before coming out as well.
Phobographer: You also do “Chicken Daddies.” Why chickens and why cats for these projects?
Danielle Dierking Brock: The chickens were by chance because of the previously mentioned “Target Dress Challenge.” Once shared on social media, I discovered that there is quite a niche for chicken art. Some people call themselves “crazy chicken”. They love their chickens so much. Chickens are beautiful animals that, believe it or not, can enjoy snuggling on your lap! They are also a pet that gives you breakfast, what’s better than that?! I decided to expand to cats because I am a cat owner and lover myself. I’ve noticed on the interwebs there are many other people who enjoy their kitties as I do and I wanted to expand to that audience.
Phobographer: What is harder: getting the humans or the animals to pose? How do you approach getting everyone feeling comfortable?
Danielle Dierking Brock: I have pretty good skills with helping anyone with their pose. I developed this skill after many years of doing portrait and wedding photography. Many times, it will take several adjustments to get it just right. When posing for either calendar, it’s usually an exciting process for the model. We are usually laughing and having fun! I’ve noticed a couple of these models getting nervous and I will direct them into a pose and be sure to let them know they are doing a great job! This helps ease tense nerves. Typically the animal is more difficult to pose. Believe it or not, cats are the most difficult. When you put them down, they prefer to walk away. When you put a chicken down, they tend to sit there for a moment before wanting to walk off.
Phobographer: From an emotional perspective, what does working on this project do for you?
Danielle Dierking Brock: This project has been life-changing. I didn’t understand complete satisfaction and joy in my work until these calendars were launched…I have made so many new friends (chicken/chonk dads along with their families) across the world, and that is very rewarding to me. I love laughing and smiling every day as I photograph and edit a new shoot or come up with a new concept and see it turn into reality. I love traveling and seeing the world. This has truly been a gift I will cherish. That said, it also has been incredibly demanding and busy, and I greatly appreciate the help my loved ones give when they have time.
Phobographer: What do you hope it does for the viewer?
Danielle Dierking Brock: I hope that it uplifts their day every single day. I’ve received many reviews that my calendars were given as a gift to people with cancer, medical issues or generally just having a hard time in life and it has immediately lifted their spirits. To me, that is awesome!
Phobographer: When you’re not photographing Cats, Chickens, and Daddies, what other types of work do you focus on?
Danielle Dierking Brock: My holiday mini sessions have been very successful every year. I used to photograph weddings, but have retired from those and occasionally, I will do an engagement or family session here and there. My Chicken Daddies and Chonk Daddies projects already keep me very busy.
Phobographer: What’s the long-term goal with this type of work? What do you hope to work on in 3-5 years’ time?
Danielle Dierking Brock: My goal is to continue with both Chicken Daddies and Chonk Daddies. I hope to expand outside of the United States more often and feature more international Daddies. Each year I will release fresh new themes to keep you smiling.
You can see more work by Danielle Dierking Brock by visiting her website. To see the calendar, you can check out Chonk Daddies here.
All images by Danielle Brock. Used with permission. Want to be featured? Here’s how.