Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010


A few weeks ago, Michelle shared with me her idea about how to raise funds for the Shelby Humane Society (Shelby Co., Alabama) of which she's a board member and a volunteer. Shelby Humane Society's Shelter Partners Program moves rescued pets from Shelby County, which is experiencing extreme animal overpopulation, to shelters in New Hampshire where the success and enforcement of animal and spay and neuter laws and initiatives limit the number of pets available for adoption. With rare exceptions, the dogs and puppies transferred are placed with adoptive families within a few days of becoming available for adoption at the NH shelters. Obviously, the trip costs money (about $50 per dog), and Michelle wanted to find donors who would sponsor individual pups' trips up north by buying Christmas tree ornaments containing the picture of the particular dog they would like to sponsor.

So, I volunteered to take "studio portraits" of shelter animals. I photographed about 80 dogs and cats in a small room at the shelter, using a black piece of fabric as a background (or the bare white wall for the darker dogs) and two strobes shooting through umbrellas. Now, that's easier said that done, because those guys are not gonna keep still on the exact spot where you want them to be. It actually was a huge exercise of imagination and patience and I could NEVER have done it without the help of Leon and Amber, who work at the shelter. Leon was great holding the dogs while keeping himself out of the frame, and so was Amber, who did all sorts of things to make the pets look (more or less) in the direction of the camera.

All sorts of things happened during the photo shoot, most memorable of which was the funny pitbull who, as soon as he entered the room and before any of us knew it, peed all over my camera bag and then came to lick my face as if nothing had happened (thank God the bag was closed and there wasn't any damage to report about...)

Then, we needed a campaign poster and they chose George as the poster boy (the 2 first pictures above). The idea was all Michelle's. There's no photoshop involved: I wanted to do everything real, on camera. George is a pitbull that had been in the shelter for 10 months and, therefore, was risking being euthanized. A couple of days after the campaign kicked off, George was adopted.

I'm not a "pet photographer," mind you, but this project was really worth it. In less than two weeks since the campaign started, the shelter has already reached more than half of its fundraising target, and even some of those dogs have been adopted, meaning that their tickets to New Hampshire will be used by other dogs.