Celebrating Love & Resilience in Every Little Perfect Imperfection
I can’t think of anything better to conclude Master Bowie’s ‘Look Beyond My Disability’ series other than celebrating these beautiful dogs’ all little perfect imperfections – and no one is more perfect to do that than Alex Cearns OAM.
Alex is an Australian decorated, award-winning Perth based animal photographer, whom UK’s Dogs Today Magazine calls ‘One of our greatest dog photographers in the world.’ She’s also a passionate animal rescue advocate, philanthropist, dog mum and author of six books including ‘Perfect Imperfection: Dog Portraits of Resilience and Love.’
In ‘Perfect Imperfection’, Alex succeed in capturing the beauty, unbreakable spirit, strength and resilience of 60 perfectly imperfect dogs. I asked Alex if she could answer some questions about her experience photographing and getting to know these beautiful dogs, and she kindly said ‘Yes!’ Our Q & A went as follows.
Do you have pets yourself?
I sure do. I’m owned by Macy the 9-year-old moggy, Pip the 7-year-old Kelpie x Greyhound, and Pixel the 6-year-old Greyhound. They’re all rescues adopted from organisations who saved their lives and they’re much loved.
What inspired ‘Perfect Imperfection’ project?
My favourite animals are dogs and one of my most passionate aims as an animal photographer is to capture the adorable subtleties that make all dogs precious and unique. I photograph over 1000 dogs each year in my studio in Perth, Australia and many of my subjects have been adopted from rescue organisations and still show the scare of their former lives.
I love every animal I have the privilege of photographing, but those perceived as ‘different’ hold a special place in my heart. These are the ones who have lost a leg, been born without eyes, or are still showing the scars of former abuse.
The dedicated rescue organisations often take them in and care for them when no one else will, and they bring them back to good health, footing the bill for their treatment. They then place them in foster care and screen potential adopters in order to find them the perfect homes.
In my images, I like to lead with the beauty of each animal, making their physical issue almost a subtle afterthought and photographing each one with care and sensitivity.
My inspiration for ‘Perfect Imperfection’ came from the dogs themselves. Most dogs with ‘afflictions’ don’t dwell on them. They adapt to their bodies without complaint and they survive with determination. They push on, always, wanting to be included and involved in everything as much as they can, and as much as an able-bodied dog does.
What did you take away during and from this project?
The tenacity of dogs to overcome adversity never ceases to amaze me. They make the most out of life and from them I’ve learnt so much about always seeing the positive in every situation and never giving up. Being able to share the stories of these dogs and their images is a gift and the public reception to them has been so positive and filled with love.
Which of these beautiful dogs left the most memorable impact on you?
I love all of the dogs in the book but Vegemite, the cover star, is one of my favourites. He’s a 7-year-old Japanese Chin x Pekingese. Vegemite lost his eye when he was attacked by another dog. He had an emergency surgery but his eye couldn’t be saved. Thankfully he recovered well and is a very happy boy. On the cover he’s doing a high five which is so cute!
Another adorable dog in the book is Bali Pip – she’s on the back cover. I photographed her in Bali after she was rescued from the streets by the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA). She was 7 weeks old and had mange, so had lost her hair. With some love and care, her fur eventually grew back and she looked like a small black dog. Her photo was the first image I had which went viral on the internet. We also held a fundraiser for BAWA and raised $15,000, mostly from selling copies of her photo. Many people all over the world have her photo framed on their walls and she represented global rescue dogs for HeartSpeak in the USA.
Lastly, if you and your camera had the power to do or change one thing in this world, what would it be?
I’d wish for all humans to understand and see that animals are sentient beings who require the same things we do to live happy, healthy and fulfilled lives – food and water, shelter, medical care, exercise, love and affection. Animals feel pain just like us, and to think that they only exist for us to use or exploit in some way is morally wrong. If they cannot fend for themselves, it’s up to us to step in and create a safe environment for them and to take responsibility for their care.
Our Governments must enforce protection laws and take a strong stance against animal abuse. We need to treat animals with respect and a gentle hand, and be mindful of their needs. Every animal has value and every animal deserves to live the best life they can.
Thank you Alex for giving voice to animals through your powerfully evocative and emotive portraits. And thank you for being a part of Master Bowie’s ‘Look Beyond My Disability’ series. You can find Alex online or at her Houndstooth Studio in Perth, Australia.
If you haven’t owned a copy of Alex’s ‘Perfect Imperfection: Dog Portraits of Resilience and Love’, get one now! All portrait have accompanying stories that show the strong bond between dogs and their humans – and how sometimes they can save each other. It’s a book for everyone who loves dogs and seeing the beauty in imperfection – and for anyone who needs a hit of inspiration!
Portraits courtesy of Alex Cearns OAM (Houndstooth Studio)
‘Look Beyond My Disability’ Series
Click here for Stories & Resources
‘Look Beyond My Disability: Meet Marilyn’ – Read Marilyn story
‘Look Beyond My Disability: Meet Alma’ – Read Alma story
‘Look Beyond My Disability: Meet Diesel’ – Read Diesel story