If it weren’t for that one competition in 2013 that I participated in, and won a prize of $1000, I don't know how photography and Pawparazzi would’ve happened to me. I was in the 10th grade of my school, when this photography competition happened that changed my entire perspective on my career and photography. When I won this competition, my first instinct was to invest in some professional photography gear and with the help of my dad, I was able to do so. After spending some amount on the equipment, my dad suggested that I try to earn back that money now! That was my entry into the professional photography world.
When I joined college in 2015, we got a dog. He was our first dog and I used to photograph him all the time. Later in 2017, when my dog died, that was a crucial time for all of us and when we looked back at his photos, we realized that those pictures helped us remember his life more than his death, and made the grieving process easier.
We realized that he had lived a happy life and I thought “what if there were other people in India who would like to remember their pets through something like this?”
Soon I started my research considering dog photography as a specification and found out that it's a big thing across the US, Europe and Australia. I checked the frequency of the concept in India, and it didn't even exist as a genre of photography in our country! That’s when I decided, this is what I want to do.
My first shoot was with a friend of mine who was pregnant at the time and also had a dog. I offered to do a maternity shoot for her with her dog for free because I wanted to see if I could handle a photoshoot with somebody else’s dog and it turned out great! The pictures looked so warm and beautiful, she loved it all and insisted on paying me even though I’d offered the shoot to be free.
Later on, I did another shoot for an old uncle who had 10 dogs and that was a real test for me, but I was able to pull it off smoothly. I was sure by this time that I could do this confidently and full time even, so my friends and I, came up with the name Pawparazzi for this adventure I was about to begin.
After trying to make Pawparazzi work Hyderabad, I decided to move to Mumbai in 2019. One of the very first experiences of shooting in Mumbai was, when I reached out to an interior designer, I’d seen the pictures of her dog on her instagram, and asked her if I could do a small shoot of her dog, and that I didn’t expect her to pay me either. She was excited about it, & said she’d love to help me in any way she can! So I went to her place. Her dog is an indie who came with a lot of childhood trauma.She had been rescued from the gutter when she was 30 days old. I was able to make the dog feel so comfortable with me & my strobe lights, that we were able to get some incredible photos of her. The interior designer loved those pictures and immediately shared them with her dog parent friends and that’s how Pawparazzi got picked up in Mumbai.
I still reach out to people personally, attend networking meets, and try to host a stall on weekends to get the word out and let people know that Pawparazzi exists and this is the work we do.
I think one of the most challenging parts about pet photography is when you have to unlearn everything you think you know & get to know the dog for who they are & what their personalities are like.
To understand their behavior and then try to capture their personality as is, that can be quite a task but once you have that figured out, I think it gets better with time and practice. There is this one episode when I went for a shoot and the dog bit me.
I met him when he was a puppy and a year later he had grown to be slightly aggressive, and he didn’t remember me. You have to make them understand the situation, get them to be comfortable with it, and that is why it is so challenging because it requires a lot of patience and understanding to be able to communicate with an animal who does not speak the same language as yours. Learning photography is something one can learn, but this part can only be mastered over time with more practice and experience.
One of the cutest things that happened during a shoot with me, was when i had done a maternity shoot with a golden retriever when his mom was about 8 months pregnant. She called me 2 weeks after she had given birth and wanted to do another shoot with the newborn and the dog. As soon as she opened the door, and I entered the house, I remember the dog grabbed my hand and dragged me to the baby’s crib and he was so excited to show his little brother off. And sometimes he would go and get the mom if the baby was about to cry, or if he was hungry or if his diaper needed changing, and that was honestly so cute and wholesome to watch and witness.
From creating a space for a genre that is still not common in our country to being ranked amongst the top 25 pet photographers in the world, it has been quite a journey. Recently, I was featured in Vogue which has been a dream come true and I realized that if someone puts their heart and soul into something they will achieve it no matter what.
- Prathima Pingali