World Photography Day - Life as an SPCA photographer
Sitting in Room Five at SPCA’s Wellington Centre, camera in hand, photographer Jo Moore is trying to catch the attention of a timid cat across the room.
Hiding under a blanket with just the tip of his nose peeking out, Jo makes chirp sounds to get his attention. The cat lifts his head peeking a brief glance at the camera lens, and with a simple click of a button, she captures the perfect picture.
Trying to capture photosof animals in a shelter environment isn’t an easy task. But after a decade of taking photos for SPCA as a volunteer photographer, Jo wouldn’t choose anything else.
A love for animals
Jo has always had a passion for animals. “Ever since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to work with animals and to save all the animals. Growing up, I wanted to be a vet or a zoologist, and I wasn’t quite smart enough for either,” she laughs.
Instead,Jo decided to be an artist and started doing regular night classes. This is where she discovered photography and quickly became hooked.
As she talks, Jo moves around Room 5, effortlessly capturing photos of the cats in the room. A black cat lies atop his cat tower, stretching his paws towards the camera lens as the shutter clicks again.
Using photography to advance animal welfare
For over a decade Jo has dedicated hundreds of hours of volunteer work for our SPCA Centre in Wellington.
Jo does everything from taking photos of our animals available for adoption, catching SPCA staff in action, bringing SPCA’s large fundraising campaigns to life, or attending SPCA events in rain, hail, or shine. If you follow SPCA, there is no doubt you’ve seen Jo’s work.
Jo started working with SPCA after she had graduated from university and set up her own pet photography business. She wanted to use photography as a platform to make a difference for animals in need and approached SPCA to offer her skills.
“The most rewarding thing for me is that my images can help animal welfare. For me, I’m not super in love with photography, I’m in love with what I can do with photography. It’s a tool for me to get the message out there about animal welfare,” she says.
When asked what her most memorable photoshoot with SPCA is, she lifts her head up from the camera and laughs. “The royal visit when Camilla - the Duchess of Cornwall - visited SPCA Wellington, because I got smacked in the head with a camera.”
“No, one of the big things for me was when SPCA decided to move to a new facility in the Wellington Fever Hospital and I got to document the before and the after,” she explains.
“It was amazing to see this derelict old building be transformed into an amazing shelter for animals. It was special being a part of that journey and seeing what a difference having the new centre made for everyone: staff, volunteers, and animals.”
After giving her feline models a chin scratch and a cat treat each, Jo walks into the next adoption room.
The cats in here are especially timid. After a rough start to life, they are nervous around people and need softinteractions to help them come out of their shell. Comforted by the gentle lull of the radio, the cats are currently nestled in different corners of the room, peacefully resting.
The challenges animal photography brings
As Jo walks further into the room, one of the cats hiding in his cat tunnel shies away. Rather than getting closer, Jo stays where she is. She doesn’t want to frighten or stress him, rather catch a photo from a distance to show prospective families what a lovely boy he can be.
Being a photographer for SPCA isn’t always easy. Taking photos of animals who cannot understand you is already a difficult task, but doing so in a shelter environment poses its own challenges.
“A lot of cats will hide, looking miserable. Dogs are just so desperate to get out of their rooms, they are super hyper. Even though they have been taught to sit they have ants in their pants,” she laughs.
For Jo, the biggest struggle is trying to capture the true personality of the animals, not just how they are feeling currently in an SPCA adoption wing, waiting for a home to call their own.
“It is about trying to get an animal looking relaxed and happy, rather than ‘I’m in a shelter and there is another cat near me and I don’t want it to be near me’,” Jo says.
Anyone who has ever tried to take a photo of their pet know it’s not easy. Jo has some techniques to get a perfect shot, making plenty of noises to capture the cats’ attention
She softly purrs, makes chirping noises, and does small gasps, to get animals staring right down the camera lens at her.
The power of photography
Finishing off her photoshoot at SPCA’s Wellington Centre for the day, Jo gives her final model a pat, says goodbye to the SPCA team, and heads home to start editing her photos.
The photos taken today will be used on SPCA’s website so people who are looking for a new addition to the family can see how special the animals at SPCA really are.
A few weeks later, that same timid cat is hiding under his blanket, nose just peeking out. He glances up as the door opens and a couple walk into the room. They had seen Jo’s photos of him on the website and had instantly fallen in love with him and his story.
After weeks of waiting, he had found his second chance at happiness and is going home - and it allstarted with one photo.