It is often those who do not have animals in their lives that immediately appear surprised when I say I am a Specialist Pet Photographer. They regularly question if there is a market for such a specialism. Then there are those who are aware of other photographers who photograph pets, but have little understanding of the genre and what it truly entails.
And why would they? For like all genre of photography, there is a huge diversity of standards, often driven by the personal values of each photographer. What is seen by the public is merely a snipped. Once they become a client, they then get to read the whole story.
As such, in this article I hope to share with you the passion and values that underpin our “Specialist Pet Photography” title, taking you to the core of what we strive to achieve and why.
Animals have played such an important role in human history and continue to do so in our everyday lives. From guarding to herding, guiding the visually impaired to active war duty. Rightly or wrongly we have used animals to help us hunt, test our medicines, help us travel, and keep us company for thousands of years.
The connection that many of our clients have with their pets is one of great intensity. It is a relationship that conquers the barriers of communication from one specie to another and is far more innate than many give it credit for. With all this in mind, we know that preserving the memory of that relationship is very important. It allows us to celebrate the bond we have now, and continue to honour what we had, once they are gone. Like all photography, the images we create can act almost like a psychological time machine, with the power to instantly transport us back, igniting the memories of touch, smell and sound.
As an individual I spent all of my life around animals always seeming to gravitate towards them. My extended family owned horses and I would spend hours out in the paddocks watching them and talking to them. My mother still recalls my childhood dreams of one day having my own horse and riding it everywhere. Over the years I shared my life with rabbits, hamsters, cats, dogs and birds. I learnt to ride and could be found every weekend, for many years, at the stables. So it was a natural progression that once married and living in our new home, we would share our new life with animals.
Throughout my life a camera was rarely far from my side, however many many years would pass before fate guided me into professional photography. It was to take major, life altering events, to send me in a new direction. But when it did, that innate connection drew me directly back towards animals. With early life experiences as my foundation, I set about building my knowledge further. At this time I had recently come to meet an amazing lady, Laura Shambrook, who ran her own pet services company Pawfect Friends. Little did I know then how hugely influential she would be, not only to my life, but to the future of Detheo Photography.
We met Laura when looking for a reliable alternative to kennels and almost immediately I started to learn so much from her. I volunteered at a local rescue centre and found my new knowledge gave me even more understanding of the dogs there. Over the years I absorbed as much as I could. A sponge soaking up the knowledge she would share with me. It is therefore no surprise to look back now and see that since starting Detheo Photography I have photographed hundreds of pets including dogs, cats, horses, reptiles and rodents.
Our most popular subject is be the dog. The domesticated ancestor of the Grey Wolf, who has been a part of our pack for hundreds of thousands of years, we see all varieties and all with their own unique personality.
Working primarily out on location, photoshoots are designed to enable the dogs to feel relaxed. As such photoshoots are held in gardens, fields or forests where the dogs can behave naturally. We spend time making sure the dogs are comfortable in our company and with our equipment, which often means having to clean some slobbery lenses!
Over the years our skills have grown, both photographically, and through our greater understanding of animals. In turn our reputation has grown and we are regularly called to photograph dogs who other photographers would not, or could not work with. These dogs may appear to be aggressive and some have even bitten through fear. Others are frail and suffering life limiting conditions. Many are just nervous and traditional photographic studios are far too overwhelming.
The ability to work with these dogs and give their families what they once thought impossible fill me with such a huge sense of pride. It takes a great deal of patience, understanding and determination. But it also requires a vast amount of trust. Not only from the family, but from the dog themselves.
Against much pressure and possibly some common sense, I stuck firmly to the passion and the values, that from the start helped build my vision. I have learnt so much along the way and am always learning.
Laura Shambrook, now very much seen as an important part of our family, still runs a very successful pet services company offering excellence in boarding, walking, grooming and training. Her many years of experience and training finds her company head and shoulders apart from the many whimsical start ups we see come and go on a daily basis. So it is with great pride and overwhelming honour to know that Detheo Photography and Pawfect Friends are actively working on some amazing ideas for the future, whilst continuing to integrate services for our ever growing client group.
And as if this was not exciting enough, last year Detheo Photography’s Pet Specialism started gaining recognition within the commercial work of marketing and specifically within the veterinary world. Commissions already have included both leading Veterinary Insurance companies and large veterinary groups. The projects have each been challenging, but an amazing experience. We have met such talented and skilled individuals, with whom we have thoroughly enjoyed working.
And we believe this is just the beginning!