As a photographer, there have been moments in my career that really highlight the reason why I do what I do.
When it comes to pet photography, there are also distinct moments that I can think of when I stopped and thought to myself 'this is why I love what I do'.
I first became interested in photography when I was just in high school. From the moment I had a camera in my hand it felt natural and I couldn't get enough! Back then it was 35mm film so buying and processing film was expensive and I couldn't just take as many photos as I liked and delete the bad ones. I remember borrowing a 'proper' camera from school and I couldn't wait to find subjects to photograph. So our pet dog, Dusty, became my subject! She was a beautiful Kelpie cross. Mum and Dad had bought her from the local animal rescue and she just had the sweetest nature. I can still remember the time I was picked up from primary school and Mum and Dad were there waiting with Dusty as a surprise for my sisters and I. Her tail was wagging so excitably and she soon became a beloved part of our family. But at heart she was Mum's dog. Mum and Dusty had a connection that was so special and it was Dusty that really taught me how a pet can be just as special as a human family member.
So this day at 16 years old with my camera in my hand, I took photos of Dusty as she reluctantly sat for me! At the time I didn't think much of it, but a few years later Dusty passed away from old age. My Mum was distraught and I wanted to do something to make her feel better and honour what a great friend Dusty was to all of us. I remembered the day I took photos of her and I managed to find one great photo of her. I printed and framed it for Mum, she loved it and cried when I gave it to her. And that photo still hangs on the wall in her bedroom over 10 years later!
Our pets put just as big of an imprint on our heart as our family and friends do, and we tend to do the same thing when losing a pet as we do when losing a person close to us - we look for that photograph of them to grasp on to so our memory of them stays alive. We don't want to forget what they looked like, their cheeky personality, or the feel of cuddling them.
About 3 months ago my partner was looking after his parent's dog, a kelpie named Cassie. His parents were on an overseas trip and unfortunately while they were away Cassie showed some strange behaviour. Upon a few vet visits it was discovered she had cancer. Cassie and I shared a bond from the moment I met her, she just loved a cuddle and as an animal-lover I loved giving her them! As soon as I heard the news I said 'we need to photograph her'. We had great fun for an hour photographing Cassie in the studio and it was really special. When my fiancee's parents returned from their trip, Cassie was only with us another week before she passed away. It was almost like she was waiting for them.
Myself, my fiancee, his brother and wife rallied together to print and frame some photos of Cassie. When we presented them to Cassie's Mum it was a massive tear-jerker. We all cried including the adult men! But mostly, it was how much it meant to them that was so special. My fiancee's Mum had said as soon as Cassie passed that she was looking for just one decent photo of her. And she couldn't believe her eyes when she saw the photos I had taken. Mostly she loved how I had captured Cassie's personality perfectly and this is always my goal through my work. That day I realised not only is it so special to photograph a beloved pet so you can remember them forever, but that those photographs also play such a big part in the grieving process when we lose them. And it made me feel very special that I could help with that.