For the past few years I have watched my colleagues in the dog photography world get caught up in the new trend of photographing adoptable shelter animals. What a great trend to be caught up in—it is powerful, generous and hugely important work, and tips the balance between survival and euthanasia for so many animals. When a shelter animal is represented with a flattering professional photograph, it is much likelier to get adopted, and thank goodness for those amazing photographers who donate their time. But what I felt was missing from that trend was a wider view. These photographers were seeing the animal shelter (and the process of keeping those animals alive) as one-sided, which of course got me interested in telling the story of the other side: the human volunteers.
Shelter volunteers are amazing people—they are selfless, dedicated, and emotional. They are looking to give their love to something outside of themselves, something that has been abandoned or mistreated or forgotten, and there is nothing more powerful than that.
What I began seeing as I started photographing Finding Shelter was that the volunteers were not only interested in simply sharing their affection with the animals, they equally needed the love that the shelter animals gave back. I was thrilled to see such an emotional relationship between the volunteers and adoptable animals. The silent love a shelter dog gives to the human who cares for him is truly healing, making an animal shelter a place for humans and animals to heal together. Though the topic is never actually discussed, volunteers find an environment of support and friendship within their relationships with the abandoned animals that keeps them coming back.
My photography has always been about honesty, observation and story telling. I hope that Finding Shelter helps reinterpret the often looked down upon depressive animal shelter. There have been many wonderful campaigns over the past few years to put a new spin on adopting animals and remove the stigma of homelessness, abandonment, and abuse. But this cannot be done with simply a good photo of a dog—people need to be introduced to the human element. I believe this will help them connect with shelter work, and understand the importance of adoption, spay/neuter, and volunteering.
We are thrilled to introduce Dog-Friendly, a collection of city guides for dog-loving people, created together with our long-time contributor, photographer Winnie Au, and fellow enthusiasts, indie publisher Hoxton Mini Press. Available for purchase here.
August 25, 2021
Have you ever imagined Amy Winehouse or Nick Cave as a Chihuahua, Neil Young as a Vizsla, or PJ Harvey as an Afghan hound? That’s exactly what San Francisco-based artist Michael Gillette has done through his unique illustration project, blending beloved, iconic music legends, both past and present, with their dog counterparts. Pack of Dogs, our first foray into book publishing, is a celebration of pup and pop culture for music and dog lovers alike.
August 25, 2020