Animals are really not so different from us. They think and feel, love and hate, rejoice in happiness and suffer in sorrow. They communicate with us in an unspoken language. Anyone who has ever had a pet would agree. One look into a soulful pair of eyes and you know there’s more behind them than the instinct to pee on your newly planted garden or scratch the stuffing out of your favorite living room chair.
Although photographing animals can be difficult, it also can be very rewarding. We have all seen those portraits of animals that make you stop dead in your tracks and say “Wow!” Something is so compelling that you just can’t take your eyes away. And often, it’s the eyes that draw us in. If we are given the opportunity to look into their eyes, we can begin to see the very essence of their soul. There’s no underlying agenda, no lies or deceit; they live the most basic of lives.
Of course, pets are the most obvious victims for our cameras. They live in our homes, we hang with them every day and they will succumb to just about any torture we can put them through for no more than a cookie and a pat on the head. So we force them to pose, do tricks, sit still and stop drooling just so we can post their pictures on our Facebook page and show them off to all our friends. Because, let’s face it, every pet parent believes their furry little ball of fluffy love is the cutest of them all.
But what about animals who aren’t domesticated? It’s hard to get up close and personal with creatures that we are not on a first name basis with. Even when we encounter them in zoos, sanctuaries and wildlife parks where we can get a little closer than we would in the wild, how do we know what they are thinking and feeling? Whenever we have our cameras out, we spend more time studying our subject waiting for the right moment. We are still, we are quiet, we let our guard down and maybe, just for an instant, our eyes meet and there’s a mutual sense of kinship and respect. All it takes is the release of the shutter at just the right moment, a fraction of a second, and with luck we will capture their unique inner beauty.
As humans, we are really not so different from other animals. On the outside we appear to be much more complicated, yet once you strip away all the baggage we carry around – our daily routine of errands and chores, the possessions and status symbols we work so hard to achieve, the amount of stress it all creates – beneath all the things we define ourselves by, we too are made of flesh and blood. But without our fancy gadgets and our trendy clothes to hide behind, how will we know what to think of one another, what each one of us is really all about? The answer is easy, it lies within us all – it is the unencumbered beauty, the reflection of our soul, which can be found simply by looking into each other’s eyes.