Friday, June 13, 2014

Maryland SPCA

My name is Leigh Rogers and I am a Photography major. I saw this internship opportunity on the Maryland SPCA’s website, under their volunteer section. I am an active foster kitten parent with the Maryland SPCA since September 2012, and I started volunteering at the shelter in January. I emailed my resume and cover letter to the Foster and Volunteer Coordinator, Rae Borsetti. Rae is whom I’m in contact with when I have foster kittens; it’s important to tell her what the kittens’ weights are and track their progress and alert any concerns I have about the kittens’ health. I already knew Rae really well, and she knows me. I emailed her my materials and within 30 minutes she responds giving me the position! We already knew each other so well that I didn’t even have an interview for the position! She has seen my photography before so she was even just as excited as me to have me intern there.

The Maryland SPCA is located in the Hampden neighborhood in Baltimore. Founded in 1869, they are a privately funded no-kill animal shelter that supports dogs
and cats. They receive no money from the government or from the ASPCA. Donations are extremely important to their success. They are dedicated to helping the community and the animals. The Maryland SPCA is a shelter for animals while they wait to be adopted, but also offer low-cost spay and neuter procedures for the community’s pets and also multiple types of dog (and even cat!) training and behavior classes.



I was the photography and media intern. Photographs of adoptable animals on the website are done by volunteers, but I did the retakes of those animals if the initial images weren’t the best or if that animal needs an extra boost of attention to get adopted. I also created videos of long-timer animals to get more attention for them and also to inform potential adopters more about this animal’s personality. These videos were shared on the Maryland SPCA Facebook page. Rae Borsetti was my supervisor, but I also collaborated with Tina Regester and Bailey Deacon, the Communications Director and Creative Director respectively. Tina and Bailey are responsible for all things visual, so I’d often answer to them with projects that need to be photographed. For example, Tina would ask me to “go to exam and photograph three kittens with an eye infection for a ‘before’ picture before they are treated.” (Before and after photos are useful to show to donors how their contributions directly helped the animals.) Publications are a very important part of my internship as well. Whenever there’s a new newsletter or new event to promote, Bailey uses animal photos taken by me or other volunteers to incorporate them into the graphic design. The highlight of my internship was when I photographed a lovely, sweet eight-year-old pit bull named Kush, and then my image of her was used on their quarterly newsletter! I’ve also seen my images on the PawTalk monthly newsletter and on the banner on the front page of the website. I also add my animal photos directly to the website myself and I always have a great sense of accomplishment and pride in seeing them there.

The biggest take away from this experience was seeing how non-artist people and this company view photography and what use it has to them. I already know how to photograph. I learned that from practice and from being at MICA, but to see the “real world” application of how my skills can be utilized is really important for me to see. This internship is the answer to how I can use photography to do something I really love. It
was interesting to see how the Maryland SPCA responds to images versus how MICA responds. Last semester I documented and photographed my foster kittens’ lives and classmates warned me to not get “too cute.” At the Maryland SPCA, cute is really, really embraced because cute is what gets attention and it’s universal for their audience. The most important thing that I learned is how photography saves their lives. It’s so much fun to go out on a walk with a dog to take pictures, but there’s an intense seriousness about the subject as well. On numerous occasions now, I photographed dogs that in the next following days got adopted and the adopter mentions how they “fell in love with the dog from the picture.” It honestly brings tears to my eyes that I connected an adopter to their new best friend; someone they wouldn’t have made the trip to the shelter if it weren’t for the photograph I took. I have adopted two cats from animal shelters so I
know how it feels. Granted, the Maryland SPCA is a no-kill shelter so the dogs stay until
they are adopted, but it means the world to that dog that gets to go home.

This internship solidified my career goals. I want to do something like this, somewhere and anywhere. I was talking to Tina (Communications Director) about pushing the promotions further and new ideas such as starting an Instagram account, and she said she simply doesn’t have the man power to do things like that. It is not the Maryland SPCA’s funds to hire someone like me to do this. I was really disappointed but one of the women I talked to for my informational interview said “if they don’t have the funds, they just don’t. “ But it’s important to still volunteer there and help out in any way you can.” It takes a lot of money to run a shelter and even though photography is
incredibly important, they’ll typically tap into their volunteer base before paying anyone
so the money can go to somewhere else. So like I said, I want to do this somewhere that will hire me to do it. I also want to have my own animal photography business to give my services to non-shelter animals as well. This internship was beyond amazing for me and I am so grateful that I could be a part of it. Even though my internship is
over, I’ll be there at the Maryland SPCA photographing at every opportunity I have.

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