WOW! Pretty much the words that came out of my mouth when I was asked to write for Guest Blog Wednesday. For those who don’t know me I am Josh Bradley, and like Mike Wiacek I am not a full time photographer, but I am heading back in that direction slowly but surely. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to work as Moose Peterson’s assistant for a little over 2 years and learned more in that time about photography than some folks do in 10 years.
As photographers we are always learning with every click of the shutter. We learn to see light in new ways, how to get just a bit lower to the ground so that your subject is larger than life, and most importantly we learn how to tell stories. After all, that is what we are. We are storytellers of moments in time. From the images of star trails with long exposure telling the story of the Earth spinning through space, or at 1/1000th of a second freezing the moment a sprinter crosses the finish line, they are all stories.
So in recent times I have found a new story to tell that that has been in the making for the past year. I live in California in a small mountain community. It’s a community that is one filled with lots of animal lovers. Most of the area has ranches with horses, dogs, goats, and the list can go on and on.
One thing that this community also has is a place called Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue. For those who don’t know me I am a dog person. I have 4 of my own (all rescues from shelters), and as I am writing this I have one laying under my feet and another trying to get his head scratched (so if there are typos in this post, blame him!). This rescue has been around since 2009, and I have become involved with it doing the photography for all the dogs that are rescued from shelters since late 2010. In the time that I have been helping there have been 200+ dogs rescued with a grand total of 500+ since the rescue opened.
One day I asked the director of the rescue, Zach Skow, “How bad is it at the shelter now?” The next time I visited, he asked me to bring my camera. Suffice to say when I got there I was overwhelmed by the sight.
At that moment this new story started being told. I am calling it “The Abandoned Project” and it tells the stories of dogs in kill shelters. I photographed that day for about an hour. There were hundreds of dogs there to photograph, but I honestly couldn’t take it anymore.
The knowledge that most of these dogs weren’t going to be around in 3-4 days was heartbreaking. Plus, knowing I may be one of the last people they see that paid them any attention or gave them any type of affection was too much. To give you some perspective, 17,188 dogs came through the county shelter where I was photographing. Of those 17,188 dogs, 10,814 were euthanized.
So I am doing this project and telling this story to put a face to these numbers. It is not easy and the only thing that makes it remotely bearable is that every time we go, we bring back 2 or 3 dogs to the rescue to give them another chance at life, and find them new homes.
The end to the story I am telling is almost done, and I am hoping that bringing awareness to this plight helps reduce the number of dogs in shelters all over. Because I know that if this is going on where I live it has to be going on in other places as well. Even if it was just one other town that had the same statistics, that is one town too many.
For all the photographers out there I will say this in closing. Never EVER stop telling the stories of the world. Photograph and bring light to the dark places so that other people can tell your story and pass it on.