Some issues in the world of dog rescue catch my eye and heart.
I try and shed a light on these issues, or create photo campaigns to raise awareness.
Easy As ACC campaign
I created and photographed an awareness campaign for adoption in New York City, for the ACC. The ACC is the largest shelter, contracted by the city of New York to accept all strays and owner surrenders. As such, they welcome about 30,000 animals each year. With limited resources and outdated facilities, they are faced with many complex challenges. The campaign was designed to bring awareness to their care centers and the joys of adopting your next best friend.
FLOWER POWER: Pit Bulls of the Revolution
America euthanizes upwards 1,000,000 pit bulls every year. Most of these dogs would make great family pets or life companions, but they are the victims of a major pit bull crisis, prejudices and terrible stigma associated with these dogs.
"Flower Power, Pit Bulls of the Revolution" is a series dedicated to the dogs grouped under the name of pit bulls. I wished to portray this misunderstood group in a different light. The general public and news media consider a "pit bull" a dog that belongs to one of the following breeds, or simply looks like one: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Bull Terrier, or any mix. To put it in a nutshell, most "Pit bulls" are judged based on certain physical characteristics. If they physically look like they belong to that group, they will be deemed dangerous by many, with no regard to their individual temperament.
This project started as an excuse for me to discover more about pit bulls, and to see for myself what the debate was about. Were pit bulls really all crazy and dangerous? Or were most of them simply the victims of a generalization? Like many people, I admittedly had prejudices against them. But as an active volunteer with many rescue groups, I often came in contact with pit bulls and was slowly warming up to their sweet nature. I decided to confront my apprehensions and explore their soft side in a visual way.
I realized pit bulls were always portrayed in very urban, gritty photographs. The imagery associated with these dogs is often harsh, very contrasted, conveying the idea of them being tough. In my opinion, this feeds the myth that these dogs are dormant psychopaths. So I decided to take the other route and portray them like hippies, soft fairy-tale-inspired characters, feminine and dreamy. The idea of Flower Power blossomed.
I made flower headpieces and approached three rescue groups in New York City: Sean Casey Animal Rescue, Second Chance Rescue and Animal Haven. All three welcomed my project with enthusiasm. I set up a studio in both boarding facilities and photographed some of the pit bulls who were up for adoption (July and August 2014). In September 2014 I answered the plea of the Hempstead Town Animal Shelter and organized a Flower Power shoot for their most urgent dogs. The shelter has 140 dogs in their care, mostly pit bulls, and many of them have been there for over two years.
An estimated 1,000,000 pit bulls are euthanized each year in America's shelters. Victims of prejudices, uneducated laws and urban tales that associate them with ultra violence, they are probably the most misunderstood dogs. Pit bulls, like any terrier dogs, are strong and powerful animals. There is no denying that. But power does not necessarily mean violence. Most pit bulls are peaceful and sweet dogs. For this series, I imagined them like hippies, fighting the system and the image they are given with the power of love and the softness of flowers.
"Flower Power" is about challenging myself to approach pit bulls with a fresh perspective and an open heart. I invite the viewer to do the same. It is a long term project. I am wondering: if this was the way pit bulls were portrayed all the time, would they loose their "gangster" image? Would this change their fate?
You can take part in the campaign by posting a photo of your pet wearing (or with) flowers and using #PitBullFlowerPower. Join my Instagram for more!
A 2015 Flower Power calendar is also available, with proceeds helping the shelters and the campaign. More Flower Power shoots are in the making.
DEAD DOG BEACH, The Lost Souls
There are 250,000 stray dogs in Puerto Rico, a US Commonwealth about the size of Connecticut. The stray population keeps on growing and no humane solution has yet been found. Puerto Rican stray dogs are called “Satos” by locals. Although people own dogs as pets, they often see Satos as vermin and these dogs live short lives of neglect and abuse.
Located on the South East coast of Puerto Rico, Dead Dog Beach is an infamous dumping ground. Severely neglected and abused dogs are abandoned or dropped here every day. The Sato Project, a rescue group based in New York, monitors the dogs on the beach, feeds them and rescues them when their resources allow it. Once fully vetted, the dogs are flown to New York and adopted out.
I traveled multiple times to Puerto Rico with Chrissy Beckles, founder and President of The Sato Project, to document her work and the fate of the dogs of Dead Dog Beach.
I am hoping to continue documenting stray dog populations around the US and in the world.
To read and see more about this project, check this page.