We have all heard this saying before and maybe even used it. However, when talking animal rescue, this saying really means so much more. A compelling photo that positively portrays a homeless animal can literally be the difference between life and death. If you are at all involved in the animal rescue community, you have most likely seen photos with that unmistakable HeARTs Speak watermark. But what exactly is HeARTs Speak?
HeARTs Speak is an organization that supports and promotes the collaboration of animal advocates and aspiring and professional artists -- photographers, authors, painters, illustrators, sculptors -- who have a passion for improving and saving the lives of animals in need. “It is the mission of HeARTs Speak to save the lives of animals in need by supporting artists, animal welfare organizations, and communities.” Members of HeARTs Speak donate their artistic talents to animal welfare organizations and the community, which in turn directly impacts those organizations’ missions. When animal advocates, welfare organization, and artists come together, the passion is tangible and miraculous things happen!
The collaboration and inspiration I see as member of HeARTs Speak is nothing short of amazing. Not only is there the “whatever it takes” attitude of the shelter and rescue staff, volunteers, and artists, but there is immeasurable support between the artists themselves -- behind the scenes of HeARTs Speak. In Arizona alone, there are currently 13 photographers who are members of HeARTs Speak. These artists join forces for the greater good, working together brainstorming, problem-solving, and teaching each other. Additionally, there are member forums where in a matter of minutes I can get valuable answers to any question I may have, such as how to salvage that less-than-perfect photo, what to do to overcome a challenge, or what equipment to purchase.
I am a self-taught photographer, picking up my first DLSR camera in 2011 with absolutely no knowledge of how to use it! I quickly fell in love with photography, but it was not until November of 2012, when I began photographing for a small rescue, that my personal journey in animal rescue photography began. I soon realized I had found my niche, and I consider myself very fortunate that combining my two passions, animal rescue and photography, can make a difference. As an aspiring artist with a personal, deep-rooted passion for rescue, I immediately saw the value of becoming a HeARTs Speak member. In May of 2013, I was honored with the approval of my portfolio submission and application as an aspiring artist. My affiliation with this organization has improved my skills as an animal photographer. However, the real benefit lies is the increased exposure the animals receive through this networking.
I have volunteered as a photographer at animal control shelters. However, my heart pulled me in a different direction -- working with rescues that save animals from the euthanasia list (the “e-list”). These rescues scour the e-list into the wee hours of the morning to rescue in the 11th hour the stray, the neglected, the fearful, the sick, the injured, the dirty, the matted, the starved, the pregnant -- those that have been cast aside and forgotten. They open their homes, hearts, and checkbooks. They pour their heart and soul into nursing these animals back to health, showing them love, rehabilitating them, and training them how to become the loved, valuable family member they were meant to be.... and then finding them the perfect home. These are the true heroes of rescue, and my goal as a HeARTs Speak photographer is to assist these rescue warriors in capturing the true essence of the animals they have rescued, to positively promote them to increase adoptions.... and decrease euthanasia.