Art From the Heart
A mission to empty pet shelters everywhere
Lisa Prince Fishler is an artist and self-described “animal person.” When she learned that a disproportionate number of pit bull dogs were being euthanized because they were perceived as dangerous, “it woke up the advocate” in her. “I wanted to do something on their behalf,” she says.
Prince Fishler volunteered at a pit bull rescue organization and found that she enjoyed taking adoption photos of the animals to be posted online. “I’d portray them the way I saw them–– not as vicious, but as loving, smart, funny dogs.” The photographs immediately brought about an uptick in adoptions. Prince Fishler then saw a heart-wrenching video about euthanizing in high-intake shelters. “Tears were streaming down my face and I thought, What can be done? I realized that if we could increase the number of people who bring a shelter animal into their home by 3 percent each year, the number of animals taken to shelters could be reduced to zero.”
And so HeARTs Speak was born. The organization registers and matches professional photographers with animal shelters in their area. The photographers regularly donate time to take portraits. Creative styling, having them play with a ball or a toy, or showing the animal engage with someone off camera, all work toward creating an evocative portrait which will help the animal find a home.
Currently HeARTs Speak has members in approximately 25% of the 13,300 shelters in the U.S.. The group provides an astounding 31,500 portraits each month. “But that only accounts for 25 percent of the shelters,” says Prince Fishler, downplaying her extraordinary accomplishment. “I want to help the other 75 percent, too.”
HeARTs Speak’s goal is to expand their Perfect Exposure Project (PEP) to shelters across the country. PEP offers financial support to shelters and teaches their staff techniques to help get their animals adopted through writing appealing bios, taking great photos, and marketing through social media.
When asked what’s most rewarding about what she does, Prince Fishler doesn’t hesitate. “Helping the shelter workers,” she replies. “They get compassion fatigue because they see so much sadness. Teaching the PEP workshops allows us to create the space for employees to get a much-needed break and have some fun.” She explains that by empowering shelter staff to make a tangible difference in the future of the animals they care for, they begin to feel happier and that they can really effect change. “After we leave, the difference is almost immediately evident: There’s more positivity in the language, the photos improve dramatically, and the adoption rates go way up.”
Take Perfect Pet Pictures
- Get On Their Level: Lie down on the floor to capture details you wouldn’t notice from higher up
- Surprise Them: Let your pet relax and play quietly, and then have someone call them. Click.
- Patience Is a Virtue: Allow them to relax, and soon you’ll capture the perfect picture
- Blur It: To put more focus on any critter, have them a few feet away from their background
- Candid Camera: Is your lazy cat yawning or your dog begging to play? That’s a great shot.
CHILI - Karen Killeen-Macias of Winterbabies Photography (winterbabiesphotography.com) arrived at Community Cats
(communitycats.com), a rescue shelter in Bedford in search of a cat to photograph and was chosen by Chili, “friendly and affectionate, walking up to me right away,” she recalls. “He was curious about my camera and happy to sit patiently for me while I photographed him. When I left, he followed me out to the door. He would make a wonderful companion.”
HUDSON - Jim Dratfield of Petography (petography.com) zoomed in on Hudson, a four-year-old Belgian/ Tervuren mix rescued by A New Chance Animal Rescue (anewchancear.org) in Bedford. He is a smart, affectionate, fully trained pooch who would love a home with a large, fenced yard. “My hope was to capture both Hudson’s dignity and his whimsy,” Dratfield says “Hudson was doggone great to work with!”
THE DUMPLINGS - Linda Kuo of Kuo Photo (kuophoto.com) was captivated by The Dumplings, a pair of sheep whom she found bearish and adorable on her visit to Magnolia Run Farm & Animal Rescue (magnoliarun.org) in Bedford. “They love to graze and nibble in the pasture and will eat out of your hand,” she notes. Both neutered males, “each has his own unique personality, but they are attached to one another. They are sometimes clownish, sticking their heads together into a feed bucket to get to the goods. I wanted to capture their connection to each other.”
GRACIE & FLOSSIE - Jamie Kilgore of Jamie Kilgore Photography (jamiekilgorephotography.com) was immediately drawn to Gracie and Flossie, a mother/daughter duo from A New Chance Animal Rescue (anewchancear.org) in Bedford. “I witnessed a very special bond between them and know they would thrive in an environment that would welcome them as a team. They were inseparable the entire time I was shooting,” says Kilgore. “In this portrait, I captured that bond—the love and closeness of these two sweet, adorable dogs!”