finding shelter.

After adopting Callie six years ago I’ve become a huge advocate animal rescue and trying to raise as much awareness as possible about the countless amazing animals that are out there without a home. What always amazes me the most about animal rescue is the countless volunteers who donate their time, energy and quite frankly, their love to do whatever they can do improve the lives of animals – volunteering can be really emotional and there are so many unglamorous aspects of it, from cleaning cages to processing paperwork and applications. It’s not easy!

Finding Shelter Project by Jesse Freidin

I was so excited when I first found pet portrait photographer, Jesse Freidin on Instagram – I’m a sucker for great dog photos (um, I think half of my Instagram feed is dogs that I follow) but what really got me was Jesse’s latest project: Finding Shelter. This fall he’ll be working with animal shelters and rescues to photograph 150 adoptable pets alongside the volunteers that are working tirelessly to find them a new home. These photos will be published with each volunteer’s story about why they do what they do and publishing the collection in a book to be released in early 2016. Amazing, right?

To help spread the word about Finding Shelter and celebrate the launch of Jesse’s Kickstarter campaign today, I caught up with Jesse to learn more about the inspiration behind the project, how he got his start as a photographer and what he loves about photographing dog portraits:

Finding Shelter Project by Jesse Freidin

How did you get started with pet photography? Do you have a favorite photo you’ve taken?

I’ve always been a portrait photographer- even from a very young age. There is just something so fascinating about observing people so closely through the mechanism of the camera. It is intimate and emotional in a way that feels slightly addictive. When I moved to San Francisco ten years ago I needed a job and randomly ended up getting hired by a doggie daycare- though I knew nothing about dogs at the time. It took thirty seconds in the middle of a huge group of barking dogs for me to become enthralled by the human/animal bond. At the same time I was an apprentice at a family photography studio where I was mentored by an amazing group of artists, invited to become an associate photographer, and launched my career. Ever since then I’ve been studying why we humans are so drawn to dogs, what that says about us as a society, and how I can best articulate that visually. One of my favorite images from the past six years has to be of Gus the pug- from my very first session as a dog photographer in San Francisco. I approached that session without zero expectation, and let myself simply be creative. Everything was perfect, and it inspired me to do this full time.

What was your inspiration for the project?

For the past few years I’ve seen so many pet photographers turn their attention to shelter pets by photographing adoptable animals at shelters. This fad has thankfully made a huge impact in getting pets adopted, and therefore saving countless lives. However- I think that approach is over-done at this point and that we as a community need to look a little deeper into the homeless pet epidemic. As an artist that is always drawn to stories that are not being told, I became intrigued by the fact that no one was talking about the shelter volunteers who are the ones directly responsible for keeping these homeless animals alive and cared for. The selflessness and dedication of volunteers that I knew, and the unspoken way in which healing happened on both sides of the shelter relationship (dog and human) inspired me to start the Finding Shelter project.

Finding Shelter Project by Jesse Freidin

When did your love of dogs start? Do you have a dog yourself?

I didn’t grow up with a dog, but was always drawn to friends’ dogs. There are many photos of me as a small, blonde child lying down on the floor next to some big old dog. I think I found it therapeutic. Now I lay down on the floor next to my small old dog, Pancake, a 10 year old Boston Terrier. He’s the best dog- I tell him every day.

Any advice for someone considering adopting a pet?

Go online and see what animal shelters and rescue groups are in your area, and go visit them. Have an open mind, and be patient. So many dogs come and go at shelters that if you don’t fall in love with an animal during your first visit, go back in a few days. Most importantly- remember that though shelters and rescue groups do their very best to create a calm environment for all animals- being locked up in a shelter can be fairly traumatic for pets. Keep in mind that once removed from that chaos any animal will truly blossom.

For all of my animal loving readers out there, I encourage you to support Finding Shelter, if not to snag a copy of the sure to be amazing book for yourself but to support Jesse’s mission to tell the stories of shelter volunteers and help celebrate the huge impact they have on so many pets.