The old saying claims that cats have nine lives. But what about dogs?
For Jersey City photographer Jenna Leigh Teti, keeping the memory of pet canines has become something of a mission – especially for those who are terminally ill.
A professional pet photographer, Teti lends her services to a local animal shelter, taking photos of pets up for adoption. She figures the better the photo, the more likely potential pet owners will be attracted to it.
And while she offers a lot of professional photo services, the one that seems the most poignant is the package she offers to capture images of very old or terminally ill dogs, seeking to encompass in a portrait what made the dog special in life.
“I only photograph dogs,” she said. “I used to do dogs and children. But I’ve found dogs are easier to work with.”
Teti started at an equestrian photographer. Not many people know that New Jersey is one of the leading states for horse ownership, rivaling even places like Kentucky.
“I would go to shows in west Jersey and all over the country,” she said. “I grew up riding.”
She got a job offer to do photography out of high school due to a horse show photograph. She had plans to go to college to study design, and realized she could help cover the costs with photography.
“I learned a lot,” she said. “I found myself doing more work as a photographer, and so dropped out of college to work at it.”
Came to Jersey City
Raised in New Hampshire until she was 11 years old, she moved to the New York area, and eventually by way of Brooklyn, moved to Jersey City.
“l love Jersey City,” she said. “It feels like I grew up here.”
Her work with dogs includes doing the photography for C-Spot, a dog rescue operation in Jersey City. She’s been doing dog photography for a number of years, saying she gave up the horse photography because she was tired of being on the road all the time.
She decided to offer a package to people whose dogs are very old or dying. She had a dog of her own who was ill throughout its life, and eventually passed away Jan. 1, 2013.
“It was so comforting and therapeutic to have images that capture his spirit,” she said. “I look at them every day and I understand how important that is.”
She said she shoots everything on location, trying to find an environment in which the dog feels comfortable or which expresses its character.
“This could be a dog park or a part of someone’s home,” she said. “I try to capture the dog in action.”
She knows that dealing with such animals, that there is a risk of the dog passing away unexpectedly. “I went through this,” she said. So she tries to capture the essence of the dog, creating a memory in image that will allow the owner to recall exactly what the dog was like.
“I did one last year with a Doberman that had lung cancer,” she said. “It was very moving, but he was anxious at first. We went to the park and he eventually got used to me, and I could absorb his spirit in a short time.”
She said she used to go all over to take photos, but now mainly works in Hudson County, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and some New Jersey suburbs.
“This is incredibly special to me,” she said. “I take a lot of photographs. I edit for hours. I look beyond the shoot, trying to find a special or touching moment, something that will provide someone with comfort. I love dogs and I’m very involved with dog rescue.”
She said she loves to figure out the personality of certain breeds of dogs, noticing that each has its own uniqueness.
She is especially intrigued by hunting dogs and other working dogs, such as those that help tend livestock. She has been compiling a library of images, perhaps with the idea of publishing a book about them.
To learn more about her work, you can visit her website: www.jennaleighteti.com
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.