Cause, Paws & Art: Photographers Helping Animals
As the owner of Printz Photography, Lisa Prince Fishler photographs pets for a living. But she has always been moved by the plight of the many animals that are euthanized each year, and in 2010, founded HeARTs Speak, an organization dedicated to bringing artists together to save the lives of animals in need.
HeARTs Speak is unique in that it works to secure stipends and other incentives so artists can work on behalf of animal causes without consequences to their own businesses, encourages relationships with third-party partners that can provide exposure for the artists, and offers educational opportunities that use art to bridge the work of animal welfare organizations and the communities they serve.
It is a thoughtful, creative and forward-looking organization that takes into account the realistic needs of all parties. From their website it is clear they are talented, have very big hearts, and love animals. It is truly a case of someone doing what they love to change the world.
PWP: What led you to actually do something for your cause rather than just make a financial contribution? Was there a specific animal/image/moment that affected you so deeply you had to so something about it?
LPF: My personal handicap is I WANT to save the world. Especially for animals. I have always connected deeply with them and find them to be amazing beyond words on so many levels and just cannot accept the fact millions die in shelters each year. For this reason, I volunteered my services to help animals in rescues. I would walk and spend time with them, and one day started photographing them as well. I was told that my photographs helped show their character better than the snapshots the shelter/rescue staff took, and helped them find homes more quickly as a result. People who saw my photographs started inquiring about having me photograph their dogs privately, and hence, my business was born.
I always knew a lot of animals lost their lives in high intake shelters, however, it was not until I actually watched a video that showed sweet, loving, beautiful dogs and cats, led down the hall to be put to sleep that I decided I had to do more. There were rooms and garbage containers overflowing with the bodies of dogs, puppies, cats and kittens. I could not stop the video, instead, I watched through my tears and sobbing and grew determined to come up with a way to stop this insanity. I thought about how if I could afford to, I would only do the work that saves lives. I wouldn’t even think twice to choose photographing animals in shelters over private clients’ pets. This, coupled with my belief that there is power in numbers served as the catalyst for HeARTs Speak. HeARTs Speak would be a 501c3 umbrella for like-minded artists, and it would raise the funds necessary to let these artists choose to do the work that gives back to animals in need.
PWP: What are the figures like? Roughly how many animals in the United States live in shelters? Are abused? Are euthanized?
LPF: According to the Humane Society of the United States, “animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of whom approximately 3-4 million are euthanized.”
I do not believe there is a resource that keeps track of how many are abused.
PWP: On your website you speak about the conflict between photographing for pay and photographing for a cause. Can you talk a little about this issue that all photographers have to deal with? How do you draw boundaries?
LPF: Again, this is the premise upon which HeARTs Speak was founded. We have close to 400 members in 11 countries. We all provide services for no charge to help animals in shelters and rescues. I don’t think, however, there’s anything wrong with receiving compensation for doing this important work and this is something we, as an organization, are working to change this. We are working to raise the funds to provide a stipend to our members each time they go to a shelter or rescue to enable them to make the choice to help more animals, if they so desire. There are lots of people in this world that make lots of money for doing bad things. We think it’s not a lot to ask to simply make enough to sustain ourselves, doing good.
PWP: Can you tell us about a case where photographing an animal changed the life of that animal?
LPF: It happens all the time. An animal is on death row, we photograph them, and then share that image via our social network via the internet, and that animals is saved. That is what we do!
– Catherine Kirkpatrick