It’s no surprise that professional portraits can go a long way in giving homeless animals a significantly better chance of finding forever homes. In fact, high-quality photographs that portray a pet in their best, most flattering light can often mean the difference between that animal getting adopted or unnecessarily euthanized. But not every shelter or rescue has the means to afford professional photography, nor the skills and equipment necessary to take great photos. Enter HeARTs Speak, a global network of photographers, authors, artists, and advocates who generously donate their time and talents to help animal welfare organizations find more homes for homeless pets.
Founded in 2010 by NY-based professional photographer Lisa Prince Fishler, HeARTs Speak works to connect artists with shelters and rescue groups, promote pet adoption, dispel the misconception that shelter animals are somehow inferior or damaged goods, and thus, save more innocent lives.
“Our goal, first and foremost, is to create a world where no animal goes unseen,” says Hannah Pearman, HeARTs Speak director of communications. “(Our) membership is modeled on a unique blend of social and creative collaboration that is beneficial for everyone involved — artists, animals and organizations!”
United by their shared love of animals, HeARTs Speak’s talented army of 600 members spans 20 countries, including 47 U.S. states, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Singapore, Argentina, Canada, the U.K., Venezuela, Lithuania, and the Netherlands. Through their beautiful and heartfelt photos, artwork, and writings, these kind-hearted professionals have helped countless shelters throughout the world successfully market their pets to potential adopters.
But for under-resourced shelters that either don’t have access to a HeARTs Speak member, or the means to afford professional marketing assistance, the organization offers an empowering solution – the Perfect Exposure Project. Launched in 2013, this incredible outreach program grants open-admission shelters a DSLR camera and lenses, a studio lighting and backdrop setup, and a two-day workshop taught by HeARTs Speak photographers and instructors.
“Many shelter’s budgets don’t allow for a dedicated marketing professional on their team, and the responsibilities of promoting adoptable pets to the public often lands on the shoulders of an already busy, and potentially unprepared employee or volunteer,” explains Pearman. “Through the Perfect Exposure Project…shelter staff and volunteers of all backgrounds and skill sets learn the basics of professional pet photography, get fresh inspiration for writing engaging bios, and learn industry tips for effective use of social media.”
In addition, HeARTs Speak supports its artist members by providing a collaborative and supportive online community, and a host of resources to help them develop their skills and grow their businesses, including small monetary grants for special creative projects.
“Our primary goal is to provide resources, opportunities, and educational engagement for our members to further their work in the animal sheltering world. It’s becoming more common knowledge that working within the field of animal welfare can be very emotionally challenging. We provide a safe, supportive online space for our members to engage with one another, ask questions, share hurt, and celebrate the successes of their every day. We’re constantly developing a collection of tangible tools that can inspire and complement their creativity, (and) through that we hope to empower each member to do the very best they can for animals in their communities.”
To learn more about HeARTs Speak and their incredible work, please visit their website or check out their Facebook page. Are you a creative individual with a passion for helping animals? Learn how to become a HeARTs Speak member here!
(Top photo by Chaya Baumbach of Chaya Digital Arts)
About the author: A devoted dog mom, journalist, and animal activist, Lisa uses her writing to spread awareness about global animal welfare and cruelty issues. She lives in Atlanta with two incredibly spoiled German Shepherds and a very understanding husband. Read more of her work at her blog and website, and follow her on Twitter.