Shelter Life Photography with Lizzy

Fellow blogger, Lizzy, photographs cats and dogs at an open-admission shelter in a small town in rural Massachusetts. She is the Humane Educator at the shelter. “I always joke that children and animals are the best. It is the human adults that are so difficult to understand.” Lizzy photographs almost daily at the shelter and organizes a lot of the marketing materials for animals, special events, and promotions. “If it is a sunny day, I just photograph to capture any kind of cuteness that I can.”

From her blog Shelter Life Photography: I have been working in the animal sheltering world for 3+ years and have found the most amazing inspiration. Every day I photograph homeless animals in search of love and companionship. I am so happy to share these images and hope they inspire other photographers to donate their time at their local animal shelter.

A conversation with Lizzy

How did you become interested in photography?
I have always been involved with photography. I was trained in traditional black and white 33mm film, including darkroom procedures. The digital age is pretty rad because we no longer have to work with those carcinogenic chemicals!

Can you tell us what an open-admission shelter is?
Open-admission means we will take in any animal no matter what their behavior or medical issues have been, or if they are completely unknown. We get a lot of heat for being the “kill shelter,” but it is very important to our community. We euthanize for two reasons: 1) danger to society, or 2) severe medical issues.

A few weeks ago, a man was waiting outside our shelter in the cold. He was visibly upset and I asked him if I could help. He said that his cat was dying and he couldn’t pay for a vet visit to put her to sleep. I told him to go home immediately and the feline department would call him back within the hour. I said to spend as much time as he could with his kitty before we called. He came back later that morning and we were able to put his elderly cat to sleep with dignity and without pain. It is a very special privilege to help people through these difficult times.

When did you start taking pictures at the shelter?
After I was hired, I found out the shelter was using what we call “point and shoot” cameras for the animals. These cameras are great for vacations, but not for an animal shelter. I told my boss that a semi-professional digital camera would be a fantastic investment. He says it was the best investment ever because now we have artwork for everything we promote!

What inspired you to start taking pictures at the shelter?
The animals are inspiration enough! They are amazing. So many moments and facial expressions! I did have a lot of experience coming in as I have rescues at home. Every day they “suffered” at the hands of me shoving a camera in their face. hehehe

What pets do you have at home?  
Two cats and two dogs: Jinxy, 16 year old tuxedo male Manx cat rescued from Reading, PA Animal Pound. Cowboy Johnny, 1 year old bi-color male cat adopted from where I work. Lily, 4 year old Carolina dog adopted from a foster program in a neighboring city. Mike, 11+ maltese mix dog adopted from where I work.

Lizzy’s lucky pets

What surprised you the most about taking pictures at the shelter?
I always have the camera on continuous shooting and it’s all the moments it captures that surprise me. The facial expressions – both silly and serious. I love it.

What is the hardest part about taking pictures at the shelter?
Light. Our pre and post-surgical rooms do not have windows and working with the lighting is a bitch. But, for instance, if you want to document 3-week-old kittens before they head into foster care – you have to photograph in those rooms. It’s a challenge, for sure.

Do you share your pictures anywhere else besides your blog?
I post them on Facebook if I get one that I really like. I call it “SHELTER PIC OF THE DAY” and write a bio for the animal. The last time I did that, my friend adopted that cat. It was pretty rad.

I also use the photos for adoptions. Every week we are posting available animals in print and online media. I think if the picture looks great, it will always help the animal to get adopted. It’s very important to me that the animal look the best that they can.

Do you have a cat that you’ve photographed that especially touched your heart?
All of them. I seriously love all the animals. Big or small. Dog or cat. I have absolutely no preference in either. I think they are all super rad and it is a privilege to be working in the shelter environment.

Do you have a favorite organization or charity that you’d like to give a shout out to?
One of my favorite organizations is IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare). One of my volunteers was hired by them and the work she is now doing is SO impressive. I recommend that everyone check out their YouTube channel. They are constantly posting videos of their work. Amazing stuff.

Anything else we should know about you? A fun fact?
Previously, I worked in advertising but will never again step into the corporate world.

Thank you to Lizzy for using her photography skills to bring light to shelter animals! You can follow along as Lizzy continues to post more photographs on her blog Shelter Life Photography.

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29 thoughts on “Shelter Life Photography with Lizzy

  1. franhunne4u says:

    I would not call this shelter a kill shelter if they only kill for these reasons. Kill shelters kill animals that have not been adopted or reclaimed in a few weeks after being brought in – no matter if they issues or not! Animals that are seriously ill and are suffering are euthanized here, too – and Germany has no kill shelters. And animals, mostly dogs, that are attacking humans get put down here, too! Though mostly only the big dogs … Ankle biters are not dangerous enough.

    • shelterlifephotography says:

      the term kill shelter is really inflammatory. i don’t think ANYONE working at any shelter enjoys euthanasia. in fact, at shelter where there is a lot of animals put to sleep – the employee turn over rate is 3 to 6 months. there is nothing easy about working at shelter. you get heart broken constantly. “kill shelter” should just be taken out of the vocabulary. it is demeaning and judgemental, IMHO.

      • franhunne4u says:

        No, there are KILL shelters, where the animals have only two weeks to find a home or find their owners … TWO WEEKS and then it is over to the afterlife. THAT is what I call a kill shelter.

    • shelterlifephotography says:

      The white fuffy kitty was named Lisa (I named her in honor of my sister’s birthday). She had a grade 4 heart murmur and it took her a very long time to find her forever home. Heart murmurs can kill a cat unexpectedly and people often do not want to adopt them because of the emotional aspect. It was a big moment for us when she found her new mom. 🙂

  2. shelterlifephotography says:

    Thank you for reposting my interview! I am a little behind in my response. My other “hobby” is volunteering for NAMI (National Mental Illness Alliance) and that took up all extra time this past week. Maybe I could write a post for you about mental health and cat therapy? They are very complimentary of each other!

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