“Once upon a time, many dogs could not find homes. Every day, people would try to help, but many of them did not have good photos of the dogs. Then one day, a group of photographers came together to volunteer their services. Because of that, the dogs now had photos that made them look like movie stars. Because of that, people fell in love and lined up to adopt them. Until finally, all the dogs found homes. This is not just a fairytale…it Is being done all over the world. Let’s make it happen in Memphis!”
This is what you will read if you go to “About Us” page of my Meetup group: “Glamour Shots” for Shelter Dogs Volunteer Group. At present, we have 32 photographers. Although this Meetup group sounds like a photography group, this is an animal advocacy group.
When you look through photos of animals up for adoption online from numerous shelters and rescue organizations, more often than not, what you see are:
- animals behind bars
- eyes that are red from a camera flash
- cold and sterile cinder block walls and concrete floors
- dogs that look scared or uncomfortable
Unfortunately, this can create a negative perception or impression on the screen. The dogs can tend to appear dangerous, discarded, or unhealthy. They look far from what most people will think of as a family pet.
This is not because the workers or volunteers at these places do not care about these animals. They obviously dedicate themselves to the care of abandoned dogs and cats. However, their focus is — and should be — the daily needs of the animals such as walking, feeding, etc. Besides having so many responsibilities, most of these workers and volunteers have no training in photography. Photos are powerful and — in this case — the difference between life or death.
This idea is not new. A friend of mine showed me a video of Photographer Theresa Berg in Dallas, Texas who volunteers her photography services to shelters in her city. As a result, the adoption rates increased by 100%! Other shelters and rescues all over the world have been inspired be her idea. They too have had very successful results.
We have support here in the city from photographers. We are now hoping that we can work with our local shelters and rescues. We hope these organizations will join our Meetup as well. We need to communicate with each other so that we can understand how to seamlessly integrate our efforts into their day-to-day operations. We hope to essentially take some of the pressures off of the workers and volunteers in helping the animals find homes.
This Meetup was started to share an idea. It is important to note that photographers do not need studios to take glamorous photos. Our goal is to bring out the personality of the animal. We can do this in many different ways such as simply changing the background, or the angle, etc. Our first step is to collaborate with shelters and rescues on these ideas and that is why I started this Meetup. As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance at a first impression.”
Kimberly Elbeid is a senior at The University of Memphis, and a native Memphian. This fall she will receive her Bachelor of Liberal Arts with concentrations in Business and Psychology. She currently raises funds for The University of Memphis as a Phonathon Student Fundraiser. She also volunteers at Cloud901 where she teaches teens about photography. She is excited for all the new opportunities and adventures that await after graduation.