Emma O'Brien is a portrait photographer based in Johannesburg who works internationally. One of her recent projects is associated with helping black cats and dogs, who are rarely adopted from shelters. She believes changing the image of these animals in society can go a long way toward helping them increase their adoption rates.
According to O'Brien, "Black critters are the least likely to be adopted, and if they are lucky enough to be chosen by an adoptee, they will have waited the longest." This is a serious problem that affects both cats and dogs. With her Black Rescue Series, O'Brien hopes to make a significant change to this issue.
O'Brien has done research on the subject of black pet adoption and has found that four main reasons exist why these animals don't get adopted. First, black cats are considered unlucky, and second, black dogs are considered to be more "intimidating or aggressive" than other dogs. Third, people think these animals are plainer or less interesting to look at, and fourth, it is also believed they don't photograph well.
O'Brien hopes to dispel all these issues of misrepresentation, especially the belief that black pets are less interesting or photogenic. "I think these images disprove that point," she says.
To inject a little more fun and whimsy into her project, O'Brien included hilarious captions for each pet. For example, the photo of Maya, pictured above, includes a caption that reads, "Won't make eye contact until you've downed four tequila shots and said 'Xoloitzcuintli' correctly. Good luck."
The caption for Jessie, shown above, reads, "As crazy as she looks. Once used a set of toddlers as skittles [an English game]. Claims it was a total accident." Although O'Brien jokes that she took some "creative license" with the captions, they add another element to her project, allowing for a humorous twist on a serious subject.
O'Brien even offers a tip for shelter workers trying to get black pets adopted: "Place them with dogs and cats who are wearing alternative colored outfits. Apparently, if there's one black dog amongst a run full of brown dogs, he's most likely to be selected. Make them stand out."
This tactic seems to work similarly to marketing concepts used by companies hoping to sell their products, to which O'Brien jokes humans are naturally partial.
Fortunately, O'Brien's project worked for the pets she photographed, all of whom have been adopted and "are now living it up in loving family homes."
She also notes it is important to educate those who want to get a pet about the benefits of adoption, especially from shelters. Many people think shelter pets are going to be more difficult than animals found elsewhere, but as O'Brien says, "All shelter pet parents will tell you that the love you get in return is 110% worth it."
Finally, O'Brien urges those who enjoy her work to spread the word about sterilization, as it is the best way to reduce the number of animals in the world that become unwanted and are left to shelters.
"It's a numbers game, one that must be reduced by getting cats and dogs 'fixed' before more accidental babies arrive," she says.