Posted 3 months ago ago
With lockdown meaning suddenly having more time on our hands, lots of us turned to baking, long walks in the countryside and some of us even joined the youngsters over on Tik Tok.
But while all that free time meant we could take it easy for a while, some decided to use it a little more constructively to start a new business. And there were countless charity initiatives designed to give back to our amazing key workers.
Someone who did both of those things was Emily Bowden. With work as a travel and interiors photographer drying up, she decided to combine her love of photography with her love of dogs to create Pawstep Portraits: Tails of the Pandemic.
Dogs were a big part of lockdown for many people and provided untold comfort for people while they had to isolate, so Emily set about photographing the special bond owners share with their pets.
But this wasn’t about business, Emily’s work was all in the name of charity and to date she’s completed 80 shoots with the money raised going to the NHS and Lanta Animal Welfare, a charity based in Thailand.
Started as what Emily describes as a ‘passion project’, she now hopes to continue dedicating time to Pawstep Portraits while donating a proportion of her fee to the animal charity.
Emily said: “Covid had such an effect on them because they're based on a tiny island called Koh Lanta.
“They rely really heavily on tourism and volunteers, and of course, no one's been on the island so no one's been able to support them.”
Still on its mailing list, it was because of this that Emily heard of the charity’s plight.
She added: “I could see that they were really struggling to keep things afloat and it kind of tied in with what I was doing.
“The NHS for obvious reasons, and then also Lanta because it was something close to my heart and I can see how much they've been impacted.
“I wanted to try and give back so that's why I'm still going to try and continue to support them with any sort of paid shoot I get for their project.”
The animal lover has previously volunteered with Lanta Animal Welfare with her duties including cleaning kennels, administering medication, dog walking, food preparation and admin support.
Raising around £3000, Emily is proud of the work she has done. But she also told us how she has got a lot from the project too.
“I think when you're photographing still life, as you do with travel and interiors, shooting dogs is a very different thing because they're moving very quickly,” said Emily.
“It's not something you can control, whereas still life you can control. But it made me, hopefully, a better photographer. It's made me learn how to be more patient.”
She also added: “I've made some amazing friends from that, and sort of being part of the dog community has been really special and raising all the money, it's been great.”
Working with dogs every day sounds like the absolute dream to us, and Emily has certainly met some interesting four-legged characters.
“The dogs are like people in that they've all got their own characteristics and personalities. So I think that's what makes them so special, not necessarily the breed but how they are,” said Emily.
She told us how some of the dogs were a real challenge to photograph, mainly due to not seeing any new people during lockdown, so they were understandably excitable when meeting their new photographer friend.
Emily said: “They weren't interacting with lots of different people as they normally would, especially not at their own home, so of course when a new person turns up, they're so excited.
“I just kind of get that excitement out of the way. I just let them go a bit mad for like 10 minutes.”
While many of the dogs were well behaved on their shoots, with French Bulldogs seeming to be the most patient, Emily did have some tricky customers.
She recalled one dog who refused to look at the camera and instead turned to look at the door wanting to go back inside. Even treats weren’t enough of an incentive.
Emily said: “She just wanted to get on the sofa.
“It was a challenging one but we got some good pictures.”
Two of the dogs Emily photographed were Mr Binks and Prudence, the pets of animal nutrition and behaviour expert, Anna Webb.
Anna said: “I thought Emily’s Pawstep Portraits was such an inspired idea.
“Capturing our pandemic times so well, dogs and their owners by their front doors. I loved being photographed, Emily puts you at ease, and the shot is a momento.
“Both Prudence and Mr Binks enjoyed the experience too, especially giving back to the NHS with a donation, all made so easy through Emily’s website.”
Anna spoke all about the fun photoshoot on her podcast, A DOG’S LIFE.
On what’s next for Pawstep Portraits, that is still something Emily is trying to figure out. But she would like to turn the project into a book.
While lockdown might have now lifted, Emily is keen to continue shooting the dogs outside, she prefers the natural light.
She will be donating a percentage of her fee to Lanta Animal Welfare.