Inspired by her beloved pup Biscuit, lawyer Katherine Carver immersed herself in photography, filling a void she never knew existed. By documenting Biscuit’s story and the adventures they shared, she has preserved those fleeting moments that can so often pass us by, learning to embrace her vulnerability and to live in the moment. We spoke to her about her passions and her impressive work with animal rescue groups.
Before you photographed dogs,
what was your subject of choice?
Prior to photographing dogs, I had not focused on any subject for quite some time. However, photography has always been a part of me, and I feel more than ever that it is my calling.
Tell us a bit more about your background.
I was first introduced to photography serendipitously during my final year in high school, and I fell in love with it. I would spend countless hours in the darkroom and most of my weekends shooting assignments. A few years later, during my final year in college, I found myself drawn to photography again. Although I do not have a fine art degree, during this time in college, through further photography coursework, I acquired a vocabulary to speak somewhat intelligently about photography. I learned how to interpret and see art by studying other photographers and artists; and I learned to take risks and to follow my instincts concerning my photography. After college graduation, I began law school, which left little time to pursue photography. After my first year, I completed a photography course at the Maryland Institute College of Art. During this time, photography provided me with an outlet that I desperately craved. Photography is fulfilling in ways that practicing law cannot be because it allows me room to evolve in my own time and create images on my terms.
Were you an animal lover before
you adopted Biscuit?
My husband and I did not grow up with dogs. Interestingly, Biscuit was our first dog, our first furry family member—a truly life changing experience for us both.
What makes Biscuit so special?
My life forever changed when we adopted Biscuit on January 7, 2011. I became fascinated with him. Biscuit created an entryway into another world, an ‘animal world,’ which I had never experienced. It changed my life forever in many ways that I did not anticipate. Biscuit was truly a gift that continues today. He taught me, for example, to be more present, aware, and patient. He also taught me to have more gratitude for the small things in life. I believe animals have a way of teaching us all about ourselves if we are willing to open our hearts and invest fully in the experience. Sadly, Biscuit recently passed away on July 7, 2013. Our time together was short, but filled with enough memories to last a lifetime.
Was there a moment where you suddenly became inspired to follow your creative path?
A few months after adopting Biscuit, my parents surprised me by giving me a Canon DSLR camera. Biscuit became my muse. It was during this time that Biscuit awakened a desire to carry my camera everywhere—creating images that forever preserve fleeting moments which would otherwise remain unseen. I began to photograph Biscuit nearly every day; and in early 2012, in conjunction with my website I also began a blog sharing Biscuit’s story. The blog has grown significantly since I first started over a year and a half ago. I have met so many wonderful people, including many ‘dog people,’ which I otherwise would not have met. At the same time, I entered Biscuit into some photo contests and he became the dog who represented the Orvis Petfinder Commitment, promoting dog rescue. This led me to photograph dogs—creating full body, headshots, and more abstract shots utilising unique markings and features of each individual dog.
You are such a keen supporter of animal rescue. Were you an animal activist from a young age?
I am a firm believer in dog rescue. There are so many dogs who need a second chance. Biscuit’s story is living proof of this sentiment. When we first met Biscuit he was simultaneously the most handsome and the saddest dog we had ever seen. He was wondering the streets of North Carolina, abandoned and severely malnourished, and covered in urine with a virtually nonexistent fur coat. He was timid, shy, and riddled with anxiety when we first brought him home. Through dog rescue, Biscuit was given an opportunity to blossom and flourish.
You say your photographs reveal the individual spirits of the animals.
What I admire about dogs is their innate capacity to live in the moment, to be vulnerable, and to naturally be themselves. They have immediate emotions, are brutally honest; fiercely loyal; and they do not judge. I believe this world would be a better place if humans had the same value system as dogs. Some dogs that I photograph come right up to the camera, while others are more shy and reserved. Often, I have found, it is best to release any sense of control, to be patient, and they will direct and reveal themselves to the camera. This is what I try and capture with each dog that I photograph—the essence and spirit of each dog. One of my favorite quotes by Diane Arbus states “I really believe there are things nobody would see if I did not photograph them.” For some dogs, their images are the only remaining trace of their existence in this life on earth that would otherwise remain unseen. It is amazing to me to witness the smiles and enthusiasm on the dogs’ faces, especially the dogs living at the shelter for various reasons. They are so happy to have attention and human interaction. This demonstrates how present dogs are, along with their keen ability to shift easily from one moment to the next.
Where do you find your subjects?
The dogs shown in the black and white series include shelter dogs, dogs from commissions, and Biscuit. The simple black background is a constant in my black and white series, creating continuity, and simultaneously maintaining each individual dog as the main focal point. I donate my photography services to my local animal shelter and other dog rescue organisations. Photography is a powerful tool—it has the power to save lives.
Can you tell me any memorable moments that have presented themselves along this chosen path?
If I am not working on my photography, I feel uncomfortable. I am always thinking about my work. I hope I am able to help other dogs find permanent and loving homes in the process of creating my work. I also hope to raise awareness regarding how human actions create the circumstances where dogs become innocent victims. I am enjoying this journey, trying to stay present in each moment, and I will see where things lead. I do believe that I will always be examining our human relationship with animals.
Do you have a favorite image(s)?
I do not have a favorite image, per se. I am drawn to creating images with wonderful lighting and simultaneously go beyond the literal. My goal is to create layered and didactic images recording the unique personalities and signature physical attributes of the dogs. I want to leave people with a new way of looking at dogs in their natural world.
How does Doug, your husband, inspire/assist with your work?
Doug’s unwavering support makes it possible for me to do this work that I love. He is also a dog lover. I am thankful he is understanding, especially when I leave the house for several hours at a time to photograph along with spending many countless hours in front of the computer working. I am also grateful that Doug is my sounding board!
What is next for Katherine Carver?
I am currently working on a new project, inspired by Biscuit, again involving dogs as the subject. The goal of this body of work is to raise awareness: to connect the dogs to circumstances where humans fail to act in a responsible manner. I am hopeful once this project is completed, it will lead to an exhibition and to publishing a book. Biscuit is the inspiration for this body of work, which is simultaneously providing me with an outlet for healing after our tremendous loss. Doug and I are certain that Biscuit will send us the ‘right’ sheltie friend, a new furry family member, who is also in need of a second chance.
All images courtesy of Katherine Carver
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