Welcome to the second in a series of For All Animals’ Photographers for Animals (PFA) program photographer spotlights!
In our spotlight posts we introduce you to photographers who are putting their lenses to amazing use for the benefit of animal shelters, rescue groups, and animal protection nonprofits. These photographers are members of the PFA photographer registry and they share their passion, and the power of images, in the service of animals in need.
Today’s photographer in the spotlight is Casey Christopher, of Los Angeles, California!
Casey is perhaps best known for her “Black Cat Project” and her work with blind cats, but we wanted to find out how it all started for her. We asked Casey how she got hooked on photography, and like many photographers, her exploration of the art started in childhood. She told us, “I’ve always been interested in photography and got my first camera for my 12th birthday. I became more interested in filmmaking and videography soon after that, but got back into still photography in 2012 when I got my first DSLR [camera].”
At first Casey concentrated on macro photography and nature photography (she is on a quest to photograph all of the national parks in the United States!), but in December, 2014, she met Imogen, a cat who set her on a path to lifesaving. Casey adopted Imogen from the West Los Angeles animal shelter, and while there she was inspired to become a volunteer at the shelter. Casey’s adoption of Imogen also led her to focus much of her professional work on pet photography.
Casey remembers that, “the shelter was crowded and loud, and I wanted to help the cats get out of there. I noticed the photos on their cages weren’t doing the animals justice. The cameras they [the shelters] use are also old, the lighting isn’t great, and the cats are often hiding in a corner of the cage or trap. I figured if I can take better photos with a newer camera, where the cats are more comfortable and the lighting is better, it would entice people looking at the shelter’s website to come visit the cats in person. I wanted to showcase the cat’s personality and give them a better chance of being adopted.”
Soon Casey was doing photography for other rescue groups as well, to help get as many cats adopted as quickly as possible to make more room for pulling cats out of the city shelter. “It’s very important to me to help as many cats as I can by photographing them and promoting them online.”
“Photos are extremely important in saving animals’ lives. A good photo will get potential adopters to visit the animal in person… I also think it’s important for cats who have been at the shelter for a long time to keep taking new photos and updating them online because all it takes is the “right” photo for someone to want to meet that specific cat. I especially like to use photos when a cat has its tongue sticking out or is making a funny face to make them stand out and seem fun and lively.”
Casey’s work evolved rapidly, and she created the Black Cat Project in October, 2015, because “I was frustrated with the number of black cats in the shelter… Their intake photos were usually the worst because they were just black blobs in a dark cage. You often couldn’t even see their faces. I wanted to prove that black cats can take good photos that show off their beauty and personalities. I photographed black cats on a black background and was able to make them stand out. It came out really well and all my models got adopted.”
Today and tomorrow we will be sharing some of Casey’s favorite photos, taken at shelters and rescues around Los Angeles. Since Casey got her start in shelter animal photography at the Los Angeles Animal Services’ West L.A. Shelter, let’s begin there!
“I’ve been volunteering at West L.A. since January of 2015. I photograph there weekly and promote available cats and kittens on my Instagram account and the shelter’s Twitter account. My best friend runs the shelter’s Facebook page and another friend runs its Instagram. Social media is very important in networking the animals and trying to get the ones most in danger of euthanasia either adopted, fostered, or rescued.”
West L.A. shelter is one of six shelters in the L.A. city shelter system, and as an open-admission shelter (meaning they take in all animals, regardless of space) they are often faced with the grim task of euthanizing cats when there is no more room. They are unable to provide in-house neonatal kitten care at this time, and that means that kittens under eight weeks of age may be euthanized due to lack of resources. Foster homes can play a key role in saving the lives of these kittens.
“Meeko and O’Malley were brought into West L.A. shelter as strays at the end of September… They were five weeks old, and since kittens can’t be adopted until they are eight weeks old, they needed somewhere to go. They were fostered by my best friend (and Imogen’s foster mom!), Kelly.”
“Meeko and O’Malley were both adopted because of my photos and our posts on social media. A good photo gets someone interested and into the shelter to meet the animal. The cat and his/her personality obviously does the rest, but good photography is so important to getting people invested in a certain animal.”
“My most recent success was Thanksgiving week when we were told we had a week to get a 13-year-old black cat named Minerva out of the shelter or she would be euthanized. I posted a photo of her on my Instagram and someone saw her and adopted her. Now her name is Beverly and she is living the good life in Malibu.”
Check back tomorrow for more of Casey’s favorite photos and rescue stories. And if you’re a photographer or shelter/rescue organization who would like to be part of the Photographers for Animals program, please visit our webpage to learn more!