My Biggest Regret As A Pet Photographer


 

Regrets... We all have them... Here's my biggest

If you're anything like me you have regrets in your life. Some of them big, some of them small but they’re regrets just the same. And the thing about regrets are the way they eat at you. Small thoughts of what could have been, what you should have done, maybe it would be different if I'd just....you get the drift.

I'm going to share with you a regret that I have, that as a professional photographer eats away at me. It sits in a little corner of my mind, ever present, whenever I think about my dog, Shadow.

Shadow was the first dog I ever had that was completely mine. Not my parents, not the families or mine to share with my sister but mine alone. I picked him out and I was responsible for training him, walking, him, feeding him, everything. And I loved it. I loved him. He was my best friend. And quite honestly, I needed one. I was that girl in school who no one hated but who no one really liked either. Not in the way that you want to be liked in school. I hung out with some people when I was at school but outside of school, they never invited me to hang out with them. I didn't quite fit.

Having Shadow to come home to made my school years easier. He was someone I could talk to, someone I could trust with my secrets, someone I knew loved me for me and didn't want anything else from me. Someone who just wanted to hang out with me because they thought I was awesome.

Honestly, it was Shadow and photography that got me through my high school years.

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I would spend all of my time outside of school with him and in school, I would spend every free minute in the darkroom. This was back in the film photography days, before digital was even a twinkle in the eye (yes, I'm that old:P).

Anyway, back to the story. The darkroom was my sanctuary at school. It was a guaranteed place where I could go to be alone (not everyone loved the chemical smells - if you've never experienced the smell that comes with stop bath you won't understand).  If I was feeling awkward at lunch? I’d head to the darkroom. Had a free period but had no one ask you to hang out? I’d head to the darkroom. Listening to everyone talk about their weekend and realising they've not invited me to something again? I’d head to the darkroom.

There I would while away the days developing and printing all the photos I had taken. Photos of flowers and natural landmarks, landscapes, people and artistic representations of my teenage angst and occasionally some photos of my pets.

It was during this time I was trying to be "an artist". Or what I thought was an artist. Think Paris and wearing a beret while sipping coffee and composing artistic street scene photos in your mind. Photographing objects that told an underlying story of hope and possibility. Or desperation and despair, even if only in my mind.

I was an artist, creating images that would speak to people with their underlying messages and subtext. I wasn't about taking photos of people and their pets. Real artists didn’t concentrate on pet photos. Pffft!!!

This pfffft was how I felt for a long time. I felt that if I wasn't trying to convey a message or deeper meaning in a photograph then I wasn't a "real artist". Even though what I considered to be a real artist was only a definition in my own mind, it was still a strong motivator. And even when I started to move away from this view and start to photograph people and pets, a part of me felt the need to apologise for my subject choices. To make excuses for why my photography assignment was my dog and not some thought provoking social issue that I captured. That I had photographed a dog fooling around in the grass, grinning at the camera, still didn't seem enough.

It was this limiting belief that is now one of my biggest regrets. This is the thought that leaks into my brain sometimes whenever I think of Shadow. Because of all of those moments where I was trying to be a "real artist" & photograph that thought provoking piece that would make strangers stand back and take note, I missed out on photographing my best friend. I missed out on capturing his silly grin as I rubbed his stomach, or the intent look on his face when he'd toss his frisbee down in front of me demanding playtime. I missed capturing photos of us together like when I'd rest against him to read a book or how he would "give me a kiss" when I asked him. All of those moments that I'll forever remember but can't "see" anymore because now it's too late.

Cancer took some of those moments away from me but I took a lot of them away too. By trying to be something I wasn't. By not recognising that he wouldn't always "be" there, by not placing any importance on capturing his and my life together while I could so that when he invariably  wasn’t there anymore I would have precious memories to hold on to forever, captured in an album that I could sit and look at whenever I wanted to.

This is what eats at me. This is what I regret. And this is what I hope to prevent for other people when I decided to photograph pets professionally.

If you haven't thought about getting professional photos of your pet then I urge you to think about it now. Don't put it off for later because that later can come much quicker than you think.

Their time is short. Much shorter than ours, so it's up to us to make these moments count and capture them so that we have something to look back on later.

If you want to get the ball rolling then contact me for more information.