Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Ulster's strange pets - the udder side of pet photography

Paul Magill with his Chinese water dragon. Venture Photography
Jersey cow: Venture Photography
Cats will sleep anywhere.....

They expected cute kittens, lively puppies and maybe even a hamster.

But the Belfast photography studio wasn’t prepared for a jersey cow, a pot-bellied pig and a horse to arrive at its studios when it invited people to bring their favourite pets for a session.

Venture Photography staff were shocked — but delighted — with the range of weird and wonderful animals to arrive through its doors when it decided to expand family sessions to include favourite furry friends.

According to a recent survey conducted for National Pet Month, a whopping 35% of people in Northern Ireland bring family pets to photography sessions.

Julie McBride, from Venture Photography in Belfast, said the company, which has studios in Belfast and Lisburn, has a variety of animals every week which has included a Jersey cow, a variety of lizards, pot-bellied pigs and even horses.

Venture photographed more than 6,000 pets on average last year in its network of 55 studios across the UK.

Photography sessions with pets now account for 10% of the company’s total work.

Among the pets that have been photographed in Northern Ireland was an 18-month-old bearded dragon called Mr Carlisle.

The portrait now has pride of place in the living room of the Carmichael-Gordon home in Dromore. According to Annette Carmichael-Gordon, the decision to immortalise the reptile was born out of the fact they could not decide on how best to capture their then 11-year-old daughter Ciara.

“What happened was that we had nine portraits of Ciara and when we went to choose one we couldn’t,” she explained. “So we had a look through the brochure and were trying to think of different things to do.

“Ciara had not had Mr Carlisle for very long — he was a birthday present for her 11th birthday. So we brought him with us to the studio. Now it’s one of my favourite portraits. It’s also a real talking point... absolutely everybody comments on it.”

And while Mr Carlisle, who was named after Ciara’s primary seven teacher, is the only family pet that has earned a spot on the family mantelpiece, the Carmichael-Gordons are not the only ones who have included their animals in a family photo.

“On the whole we get more domestic pets being brought along to the studio such as dogs, cats or even rabbits and hamsters but more unusual pets can be really interesting from a photographer’s perspective to shoot,” Ms McBride added.

“Pets can really help put clients at ease in front of the camera meaning we authentically capture the special relationships between our clients and their pets.”

Phil Sketchley, chairman of National Pet Month, explained pets played an important role in people’s lives because they provided a constant source of enjoyment, friendship and fun.

”After all they do for us, it’s crucial we give them the care and attention they deserve. National Pet Month celebrates the special bond between people and their pets and promotes responsible pet ownership,” he said.

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