An eager student at Dog Hair High.

  • Dog Hair High is a fictional high school combining adorable dogs, '80s nostalgia, and Photoshop skills.
  • The photo series features a lively cast of canine characters in '80s clothes and hairstyles.
  • Creator Peter Helenek told INSIDER he hopes the photos bring joy to people who see them.

No dogs were harmed, or even dressed up, in the making of these photos. It's all Photoshop.

Dog Hair High, an art project created by Peter Helenek, features dogs posing as high school students in the '80s.

Complete with the voluminous hairstyles and fluorescent clothes of the day, set against a plain school portrait background, the photo series (now an emerging social media brand) has raised thousands of dollars for charity and given the internet something to smile about.

You can follow Dog Hair High on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

INSIDER spoke with Dog Hair High creator Peter Helenek to find out how this wacky, delightful concept came to be.

Dog Hair High creator Peter Helenek works in toy design and packaging.

After working at Mattel for 17 years, he started his own consulting company.

It was through testing toys at Mattel that he discovered the power of dogs to bring joy to people.

"If you tested a toy with a group of kids and it didn't test well, there was kind of this unwritten rule of 'throw in a puppy,'" he said about the design.

"If you throw in a puppy and test it again, you got a winner."

The idea for Dog Hair High came about in January 2017, when Helenek found inspiration in the late Carrie Fisher's directive to "Take your broken heart, make it into art."

Meryl Streep relayed this Carrie Fisher quote at the 2017 Golden Globes while accepting her lifetime achievement award shortly after Fisher had passed away.

"I was feeling really down in January because there was an inauguration coming up that I wasn't really happy about, and Carrie Fisher had just died," said Helenek.

When a friend sent him an article featuring outrageous high school yearbook portraits from the 1980s, he was inspired to 'throw in a puppy' the way he did designing toys at Mattel.

"I'm a child of the '80s, so the more I scrolled through these portraits - these kids had huge hair, incredible makeup, just unapologetic style," he said.

"And as I looked through them, they resonated with me and they brought me joy, and every one I looked at brought a bigger smile on my face. So I had the insight of 'throw in a puppy.' What if I did portraits of dogs? What would that look like?"

Inspired by the yearbook portraits, Helenek went thrift shopping for vintage '80s clothes and began curating them into looks for canine characters.

Helenek also has experience as a wardrobe stylist.

"The idea was that we wanted to create different archetypes within high school that would be really visually easy to read," he said.

"What would the punk dog look like?" he said. "What would the popular dog look like? What would the nerd look like? What would the outcast look like?"

He then began recruiting dog models in his neighbourhood to pose as Dog Hair High students and faculty, setting up a photo studio in his backyard.

"That was a real journey because dogs don't act like people when you photograph them," he said. "They have their own mind and their own agenda. Some dogs were great models and some dogs were not. We took photographs of dogs and let their personalities speak to us."

The dogs weren't dressed up for the photos — it's all Photoshop.

"We photographed wigs, and then we photographed outfits on a mannequin, and then we composited them all together in Photoshop," he said.

"We wanted to do it so skilfully that when the viewer looked at it they didn't know whether it was real or it was Photoshopped."

Photoshop can be tricky to pull off.

To officially launch Dog Hair High, the photos were displayed at a gallery event as a fundraiser for Michelson Found Animals.

The dog models and their owners walked the green carpet and posed next to their portraits. The event raised over $3,000.

"When we opened the gallery, I had people come up to me and say, 'I was that dog. I dated that dog. I hated that dog,'" Helenek said.

Celebrities' high school portraits are also hilarious and relatable.

"People saw themselves as these characters and that really meant a lot to me."

Even though fashion and hair trends change, the archetypes stay the same.

Helenek hopes to create more classes of Dog Hair High in the future.

"We're working on ways moving forward to do private photoshoots to style people's dogs, or develop an app where you could do this to your dog yourself," he said.

More importantly, he hopes that the comical, over-the-top photos make people happy.

"Ultimately, the goal of all of these images was to bring joy to anyone who saw them in a similar way that I was inspired by the images that I had seen originally," he said.

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