By Crystal Chung @crystalkchung
Scroll down for the full story
Videographer / director: Tammy Swarek
Producer: Crystal Chung, Ellie Winstanley
Editor: Jack Stevens
Kind-hearted photographer Tammy Swarek came up with the idea of dressing up rescue dogs to draw attention to their stories and help potential owners personally connect with them.
Tammy, from Arkansas, drew her inspiration from Facebook after spotting another portrait project for sheltered animals. So she contacted her local dog shelter, the Union County Animal Protection Society (UCAPS) and has worked closely with shelter manager Tanja Jackson ever since.
Incredibly, Tammy now creates professional head shots for every pup at UCAPS.
She explains: “I thought it was such a brilliant idea so I contacted my local shelter, UCAPS and asked if they would be interested in working together on a volunteer basis for me to showcase the animals, and they immediately said yes.
“One of the key things I wanted to showcase with dressing the dogs up is their personality. I really wanted to make them look like people, and I want somebody to see that picture and have some type of a connection with the dog that they wouldn’t ordinarily if it was shut in a cage.”
“So many more people have shown interest in adopting the dogs because of the photography. They get to see the animal in a different light and some of the dogs that wouldn’t have any interest at all have had a dozen applications each.”
The outfits for the dogs come from different places and Tammy often heads to her local charity shop or Ebay to find the adorable outfits. And New York fashion designer Joan Kelly has even jumped on board recently.
Tammy said: “Joan Kelly is a fantastic fashion accessory designer and she has been designing gorgeous couture headdresses for the dogs so we are very lucky to have her on board.”
Deciding the right outfit for each dog is fun for Tammy and Tanja, and often the dogs don’t even want to take their outfits off.
Tammy said: “Finding the right outfit for the right dog is a 50/50 split. Sometimes we have the outfit and then we seek out one of the dogs at the shelter for that particular outfit, and sometimes we are fortunate enough to have it the other way around where we see a dog with a terrific story and we really want to showcase that. Then we go to our bag of clothes and tricks and come up with an outfit for that specific dog to showcase its character.”
For Tammy this very personal project has acted as a form of therapy.
“The shelter pets project is definitely very personal to me as it has saved my life and saved my sanity. I have a son with severe autism and a mom with Alzheimer’s,” she explains.
“Before I started this project I was in a very dark place emotionally. Watching the people I love most battle these horrific illnesses is heartbreaking and the Shelter Pet's Project has been great therapy for me. I want to represent them as best as I possibly can.”
Tanja Jackson, the Shelter Manager for UCAPS spoke fondly of Tammy’s project and all it has done to raise awareness for the rescue dogs.
She said: “My heart melts when I see these animals dressed up. They go from lying in their kennel just waiting for somebody to walk by and then, as soon as they see Tammy, they light up, tails wagging and they’re ready to go. Some of them don’t even want to take the clothes off.
“I think Tammy’s project has been an amazing asset to our shelter. It’s changed the perception of the rescue dog because it is like a rags to riches story - they’re superstars in these pictures.
To make a donation to UCAPS for their amazing work or to give an animal their forever home, visit: http://www.ocddesigns1.net/ucaps/ or to see more of Tammy's work with UCAPS visit: https://www.facebook.com/tammyswarekphotography/?fref=ts