We learned about Beau, Paisley, Portia and Bella—the lens-shatteringly adorable foster pups on the cover of our September 2011 issue—when Jenny Froh submitted their photo for Bark’s Smiling Dogs contest. A professional pet and portrait photographer in Flower Mound, Tex., Froh was fostering Paisley and Portia when she photographed the littermates to help them find permanent homes.
The photo stopped us in our tracks, which good photos have a way of doing, and, eventually, we selected a shot of the foursome for the cover. Last we heard the dogs were on their way to homes in Colorado. But that’s not the end of the story.
In the back and forth, we learned that Froh is a member HeARTs Speak, a nonprofit alliance of photographers and artists volunteering their talents for dogs. Art and humane advocacy are two of Bark’s favorite topics so we tracked down HeARTs Speak founder, Lisa Prince Fishler, to learn more.
Fishler is a professional photographer living in the Hudson Valley, N.Y. with her husband George Fishler; three two-legged children, Tia, Justin and Brian; four dogs, Iggy, the Pit Bull/Dogo Argentino/Mastiff mix, Taiho, a Pit Bull dog, Zoe, a Doberman mix, and Maya, a Jack Russell Terrier; three cats, Lukas, Jengo and Frank; a cockatiel; three goats and about 25 chickens and 30 guinea hens.
She took time from caring for her menagerie, capturing the essence of animals on film and volunteering to tell us about her aim to unite the efforts of photographers to tackle the unnecessary euthanasia of animals.
How did you get started as a dog photographer?
I am an artist who connects deeply with animals, and feels strongly about speaking on their behalf. When I say that, I am sharing the most honest, stripped down version of myself. I was born an artist who loves animals. Any time in my life if you asked me what I’d be if I could be anything in the world, I’d answer, ‘Something to do with animals, and art.’
How did you decide to volunteer for rescue? Is there a dog in the story?
There is absolutely a dog in the story! I was inspired to volunteer my photography services for rescue because of my ‘soul dog,’ Iggy, who is a Pit Bull mix. He introduced me to the amazing personality of ‘Bully’ breeds, but also the tragic breed discrimination towards dogs of this background. For this reason, one of the first organizations I volunteered my services for was the Animal Farm Foundation, a Pit Bull Rescue, here in New York.
My photographs help to present these dogs as the truly amazing beings that they are to potential adopters: They are funny, adorable, forgiving, kind, sensitive, and did I say funny? They’re such comedians, I love that about them!
It was through this work, that my photography business was born, as here I found a venue to combine everything I felt passionately about—animals, art, and activism … or more specifically, speaking for those who cannot.
Why make the leap from volunteering on your own to encouraging others to do the same through HeARTs Speak?
HeARTs Speak was born from the sadness and frustration I felt about the millions of adoptable dogs and cats that suffer and/or are euthanized each year, coupled with my belief that every one of us has a gift, which is often congruent in some way, with something we feel passionately about. I was often torn between working for paying clients and volunteering my time to help animals that, in some cases, had their lives in danger.
In my heart, I have always wanted to do the work that helps the world become a better place. I formed HeARTs Speak because I believe there is power in numbers, and with the understanding that I am surely not the only person doing what I do, I wanted to create the space for everyone to come together and really make a difference. I discovered that we only need to increase the number of animals adopted each year by 3 percent to reduce the numbers euthanized to zero. JUST 3 PERCENT! I firmly believe we can do this. HeARTs Speak will support artists, who give voice to the animals, and ultimately, reduce the numbers that suffer by finding them the homes they so deserve. I feel it’s a win-win situation, no matter how you look at it!
Do you have any stories about how one of your photographs made the difference for a dog?
I have had shelters and rescues tell me that my photographs help to get animals noticed and adopted, but no exciting stories—simply that good, soulful pictures make a tremendous difference
It’s pretty clear how HeARTs Speak helps the rescues and shelters, but how is it good for the participating photographers?
We are currently in the process of getting our 501c3 certification so we are not yet capable of doing all that we plan. At the moment, we have a private group on Facebook where our members support one another, answer questions, offer advice, etc. As soon as we get our certification and are funded, we have a multitude of plans. We will focus on expanding our network, building a library of templates (letters for approaching rescues, contracts, etc.), educational webinars (teaching photography technique such a lighting, indoors, vs. outdoors, basic camera operation, animal behavior, etc.) for our website, and also getting funding to help give photographers a small stipend for their volunteer work.
HeARTs Speak is looking for photographers and artists to join the alliance and for other forms of support. To learn more, visit: Heartsspeak.org.
And look for our story in Dog Patch in September 2011 issue.