Not too long ago, I got a call from a client’s dad, Neil. His beloved Tori didn’t have long. She’s dying of cancer. Compelled to help him honor her memory I met them at the Manassas Battlefield for a late summer evening shoot. Read Tori’s story.
Why do I feel compelled to help? Why honor their memories; they are just pets?!?! To my clients, creative, quirky and fun portraits of their furry loved ones with whom they share their homes and lives — these images are so much more. They represent a profound connection that they feel with their companion. These images embody a love so deep as to mimic that for a family member or spouse. Just as many families feel compelled to capture photos of their human group for all eternity, so too do many pet owners, who are painfully aware of the short lives their pets live. When memories have faded, and the smells and sounds of our pets are gone, all we have left are their photos, which, if done well, can bring back to life these animals we love so much. Photos can remind us of their spirit and personalities and bring us back to a place and time that make us feel like we are right there with them, once again.
Outstanding photos of pets can take their owners breath away and make them cry. That is nothing short of profound, and as a photographer holding a camera aimed at a dog, cat rabbit or horse that is both a great responsibility and an incredible gift.
As a professional photographer for the past 12 years, I have seen firsthand the true value of the images that I have created reflected in the eyes of my clients. I have received many emails after pets have passed away, informing me how grateful owners are to have those prints or that canvas hanging on the wall as a reminder. I feel grateful, even honored, to have the opportunity to provide this service to my clients; to create lasting visual memories for them that help them remain close to their animal loved ones.
I never really understood the connection behind what I was doing until one of my best dog friends passed away. She was a miniature Schnauzer named Casey-wise beyond her years. Casey and I spent many days together over the years, exploring the neighborhood, checking out the sights, enjoying one another’s company. She was my only friend. I came from a divorced family and spent many summers at my grandparents. Although naive to what was happening between my parents, Casey was my rock, my companion and true friend. She was always with me and I felt comfort in that knowing I was safe. At the age of 10 Casey became sick very fast. Her health spiraled quickly downward and she was unable to walk or eat. After running several tests, the vet suspected cancer and we opted to do exploratory surgery. We found the cancer had spread throughout her little body and it was too late. We opted not to wake her from surgery.
I missed Casey terribly and, of course, cried. I was sitting on my bed; I looked up and through my tears, I noticed the black and white photo I took of Casey hanging on my wall that I had taken before she became sick. The photo was a profile headshot of Casey giving that “schnauzer look” and I recalled the day I took the photo.
Through my tears, I laughed. I realized at that moment that I would be forever connected to my canine buddy thorough her photo. It was then that I truly got it; I realized how meaningful these images I was creating as a pet photographer are. My work infused with a sense of meaning and importance that I hadn’t experienced before. Although my shoots were, and are, as fun as they come, underlying all of them is the sense of long-term meaning; the sense of connection that binds us with these magical creatures.
So, I ask do you feel about that special bond with your furry friend?