When The Tyler Loop asked Alex Woodcock which photograph she would choose to feature in our Art up Close series, she immediately knew. “Please Pick Me,” her photo of a shelter dog, sent the precise message Woodcock had in mind.
Woodcock photographed “Please Pick Me” at Redlands Animal Shelter while living in California. “It really spoke to me because to me it represents the plight of shelter animals and rescue animals. They’re in very strange circumstances and they’re just waiting for somebody to pick them and take them home and love them,” she said.
Woodcock, who now volunteers at SPCA of East Texas and The Humane Society’s Pets Fur People, had a unique role with the California shelter. “Every week we would do a shoot of however many pets they had for me to photograph. I would work on them at home, edit them and they would put [the photos] in the newspaper and online,” she said.
Before Woodcock embraced rescue animals, she fell in love with photography through her dad, who took photos as a hobby. “My father’s camera was a Kodak tourist, one of those old accordion cameras. Whenever we would go on vacation or at any opportunity, he was taking pictures. In college, he bought me my first 35 millimeter,” she said.
When Woodcock considered life after working as a full-time librarian, her love for pets and photography came together. “I was in my office one day speaking to another librarian and I said, ‘I really need to do something after I retire that’s meaningful. I’m not ready for the pipe and slippers.’ And she said, ‘Why don’t you try pet photography?’ And like that, it just clicked,” she said.
Her photographs of rescue dogs are meant to draw attention to the plight of abandoned pets in East Texas. “Especially here in east Texas, there’s just an overpopulation right now.
“If there’s a message in all of this, folks in East Texas need to spay and neuter their pets,” said Woodcock. “There’s this culture here that some people just don’t do that, especially in rural areas,” she said.
Woodcock said it is common for the SPCA to transport shelter animals thousands of miles so they can get good homes. “They ship up to 50 dogs up the New England states each month,” she said. “They don’t have dogs to adopt and we have an abundance.”
Of the style and technique of “Please Pick Me,” Woodcock enjoyed elevating a realistic photo akin to a painting. “I get rid of all of the blemishes and the unsightly background and put in a new background and use some filters to make it look more like a fine art image,” she said.
Similarly to “Please Pick Me,” Woodcock shot a photo of Dino, the Tyler Police Department canine officer and then transformed it to appear closer to a painting. “It was a great photo. Dino’s such a handsome dog,” she said. Woodcock used filters and Photoshop to remove the police car in the background, creating a portrait whose focus is solely Dino.
Woodcock said her favorite part of photography is capturing expressions in the eyes, face and body. “I love to focus on the eyes and the expression,” she said.
In addition to capturing the expressions of shelter animals, Woodcock also loves moments between humans and their pets.
Her photo of Tyler police officer Matt Leigeber with a rescue dog is one such subject. “There was just so much emotion in that,” said Woodcock.
Over the years, Woodcock has noticed a pattern when humans interact with animals. “They open up that you just see a different side of that person. They let that all drop and they just become themselves.”
Another project of Woodcock’s are photos honoring pets near the end of their lives. “People have an older pet they know is ill or isn’t going to be around much longer. It’s so important for people to have a quality picture of their pet,” she said.
Woodcock has two ideas she hopes her exhibit conveys. “I hope first of all they see the images of the rescues and that gives an appreciation of what a wonderful thing it is to adopt.
“The other part is the interaction between the pets and their humans and how rewarding that is, whether it’s an adopted pet or from a breeder, hopefully a reputable one,” she said.
Her exhibit, Alexpressions: Expressive Images of Pets and Their Humans, will stay up through September 7 at City of Tyler’s art gallery in plaza tower downtown. Ten percent of any print purchased from the exhibit will be donated to a local animal rescue organization. The public is invited to the artist’s reception at the gallery on Saturday, August 14 from 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
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