This story began at an animal shelter with an adorable kitten named Imogen! In December of 2014 Los Angeles-based photographer Casey Elise Christopher adopted this lovable kitten which changed both her career and her life.
Yes, cats do indeed have that power! >^. .^<
She began volunteering at the West LA animal shelter and realized that although most animal shelters hosted websites and social media pages showcasing the pets who are ready for adoption, most of the photos they used were very poor quality.
In particular she observed that the photos taken of the black cats were especially poor making them appear far less desirable than their more colorful feline friends. The poor quality photos being posted made it hard for potential adopters to see their lovely features.
The solution? Our cat loving photographer began to take pictures for the shelter. Her amazing photos truly captured each cats’ unique beauty thereby greatly increasing the appeal and likelihood of its adoption. During this process, Casey Elise quickly fell in love with pet photography and began pursuing it professionally.
While working at the shelter, she came to learn that black cats have the lowest adoption rates and the highest euthanasia rates among the shelter’s cat population. She subsequently created the Black Cat Project, which has garnered worldwide attention (more on this below).
We had the distinct privilege to interview Casey Elise and here’s what she shared with us:
Q: Can you tell us a bit about Imogen and why she’s so special to you?
I adopted Imogen almost two years ago from the West Los Angeles Animal Shelter and I love her more every day. She inspired me to start volunteering at the animal shelter and to become an animal advocate. She’s really the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I love her more than I’ve ever loved anyone or anything. I love my two dogs a lot – they are extremely spoiled and the three of us sleep together in a big pile every night, but Imogen is really special to me. She calms me down a lot. I just look at her and she makes me so happy.
I call her my “mini me” because she’s a little grump and she likes to be alone, but she’s affectionate when she wants to be and when she comes over to make biscuits on me or sleep beside me, it’s extra special because I know she truly wants to be with me.
A few months ago, she got really sick and the vet wasn’t sure what was wrong with her and it was devastating to watch my baby not feel well and not be able to help her. Luckily, it went away on its own after about a week, but that was the first time I thought about what I would do without her, and I honestly don’t know what I would do. She is the love of my life.
Because of her, I started photographing at the animal shelter where I adopted her, and then photographing for other animal rescues, and meeting some great friends, and even my best friend – who was her foster mom actually – and creating a relatively popular Instagram and all my photo projects, everything is because of Imogen. Everything is because of Immy. She is the love of my life.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Black Cat Project: Photographer Takes Pictures Of Black Cats To Help Get Them Adopted” quote=”Black Cat Project: Photographer Takes Pictures Of Black Cats To Help Get Them Adopted”]
Q: Are cats harder than other pets to capture in a shoot?
Cats are actually easier for me to photograph than dogs. Many dogs, especially my two dogs, cannot sit still. Also, I tend to photograph cats on tables or in cages at the shelter, so they are more eye-level with me, whereas a dog would be on the ground, ready to run and play. Cats tend to be a little calmer and slower moving than dogs, which makes it easier for me to photograph them.
Q: What’s the most unusual or unexpected moment you’ve had while doing a photo-shoot?
When I was shooting The Beauty of Blind Cats at Milo’s Sanctuary, Alfie, who is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, got his chair stuck on my photo backdrop and the whole thing came crashing down, which caused around 30 cats to freak out and run away.
Q: Tell us a bit about the Black Cat Project – why you started it?
I created the Black Cat Project last October because there were so many black cats at the West LA Shelter, where I volunteer as a photographer. Black cats are typically the least adopted cats, particularly because they don’t photograph well so I decided to take some photos of black cats on a black backdrop to highlight their beauty and show they can take great photos.
Since this occurred near Halloween, I used it as a way to promote black cats in a positive light instead of as a bad omen, like they stereotypically are considered. The Black Cat Project went viral and helped all the cats that I shot get adopted.
To achieve that highly desirable effect seen in her photos, Christopher uses an external flash and lightens the cats’ faces during her editing process. We’re convinced!
Q: What’s your favorite cat photo (ok, we’ll let you have 2) and why?
There’s a really great organization in San Francisco called Project Bay Cat that feeds cat colonies along the bay. I rarely get to shoot outdoor cats so I was very excited they allowed me to tag along one day and meet their cats. This one black cat stuck her tongue out while I was photographing him/her and the photo is so funny to me.
A few months ago I did a photo shoot for a sphynx breeder. I saw her photos on Instagram @peachfuzzsphynx and invited myself over because I had to meet these adorable elf babies. She has so many beautiful cats and kittens that were all so photogenic. It was my most successful shoot ever and this photo of this tiny kitten staring right into my camera is one of my favorites.
Q: What’s the most inspiring story behind one of your shoots?
The most inspiring story behind one of my shoots would be photographing Thomas for The Beauty of Blind Cats. Thomas is a handsome one-eyed cat who was attacked with battery acid about 5 months ago. He lost one of his eyes and had to have a skin graft on his head. He is such a cuddle bug and still such a loving, friendly cat that I completely fell in love with him.
I created a GoFundMe for him and it raised over $11,000, which is so amazing to me that I still cry whenever I think about it. His story has gone viral and now there are so many people all over the world who love and support Thomas at Milo’s Sanctuary.
Q: What are your top tips for our readers to take incredible shots of their own cat/pet (aside from flying you in). 🙂
To take great photos of cats, first you need to be at their level so you need to put the cat up on a table or you have to get down on the floor. Ideally, you want them looking right into the lens because that makes a really powerful photo. Either hold a toy or a treat right above the camera lens to get their attention. Also, pay attention to lighting.
Especially with black cats, lighting is very important. It adds depth and creates intrigue in a photo. I use an external flash on my camera, but you can also use natural light to help create a visually interesting photo.
Q: Any special projects in the works that you’d like to share? New book? New film? Plans for worldwide cat photo domination?
I volunteer as a photographer for one city shelter and three rescue groups throughout Los Angeles. It is very important to me to use my photography to help animals get adopted. Volunteering also supplies me with an endless number of models, many of whom inspire me to create new photo series.
The Black Cat Project and The Beauty of Blind Cats both focused on animals who tend to be overlooked in shelters and I’m sure whatever I create next will do the same. I want my photos to inspire people to adopt cats and save lives.
Be sure to check out Casey’s amazing photo gallery in Instagram
All images courtesy of Casey Elise.
If you’re interested in taking photos of your cat you’ll find it worthwhile to read one of our earlier posts called: 9 Expert Tips for Taking Amazing Photos of Your Cat