Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Documenting the bond between homeless people and their animal companions: interview with photographer Linda Warlond

Photographer Linda Warlond.

Linda Warlond is a former veterinary nurse, award-winning photographer and co-founder and co-director of Pets in the Park. She spoke to SAT about capturing the bond between homeless people and their non-human companions.

How did you become involved in Pets in the Park?

My dearest friend Vicki Cawsey was on a mission to service the homeless community and their animal companions. She went on a search to see if there was any veterinary service for the homeless to help care for their pets. This is when she found Dr Mark Westman who was offering vaccinations for pets of the homeless community in the Parramatta area. My background is veterinary nursing so it was natural that Vicki invited me to join in on her mission to set up a clinic at Darlinghurst. At this time we joined forces along with Dr Mark Westman and Dr Leah Skelsey and established Pets in the Park Darlinghurst.

You are the official photographer for PITP. Why is it important to document this initiative?

I love my role as official photographer for PITP, that is in a volunteer capacity. The images I share with PITP help raise awareness of the services we offer. Photographs highlight the love between the owner and pet and help breakdown judgement on who should and should not have a companion animal in their lives.

Companion animals in many cases are providing a community service and deserve basic health care. The photographs I take show the animals being cared for and the volunteers that help care for them. My photographs also document the commitment of the companion animal owners bringing them to the monthly clinics at PTIP where they are welcomed and acknowledged for taking responsibility in attending the monthly clinics to receive all the basic treatments and health checks needed.

Love is the colour: a beautiful portrait by Linda Worland.

What non-humans do you share your life with?

My family share a home with a 13-year-old Whippet named Chilli, a 3-year-old Papion x Pomeranian named Vincenzo – mostly known as Enzo – and two Koi carp – Hiro and Tako.

How did you meet?

My family and I thought very carefully about what dog would best suit our lifestyle at the time we chose Chilli. I have to say he has been a very special dog and we could not have made a better choice for us. Enzo had been surrendered to a vet clinic with a condition that required around the clock nursing care. He spent the first six months of his life at a veterinary clinic. I took him home for some respite and the rest is history. The koi are so calming to watch and are handfed by my husband every afternoon.

What do you do to spend time together?

I love spending time with Chilli and Enzo in the bush or beach walk with their playmates. However I work many hours a week so it is not unusual for them to join me in the car while I run errands or to keep my office couch warm while I’m editing. We love our afternoon meet and greet at our local oval where all the dogs from our street come together. Snuggle time when watching TV or taking a nap on the garden couch. Enzo likes nothing more than when he hears the word “bedtime!”. He very quickly makes his way to the end of my bed to nest in for the night. Chilli is in his senior years and prefers to have a bed of his own that 
he doesn’t have to jump up to and he can stretch out.

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned about caring for the non-humans in your life?

Love them, feed them and never leave them.

What could we do to make the world better for non-human animals?

Choose carefully when adopting or purchasing a companion animal. Research the breed and their most common conditions. Spend time with them! Include them. Something that stands out for me with the companion animals I see at PITP is how well adjusted and well behaved so many of them are and I put it down to the time spent with their companion and not at home in a yard alone for the best part of any day.

Any advice you’d like to share with veterinarians and future veterinarians?

I recommend if veterinarians have the opportunity to volunteer in a charity program like PITP to do so. They could expect to meet others from all areas of their industry and no doubt continue to both learn and share their knowledge in a rewarding environment.

Tell us about your most recent exhibition, Love is the Colour?

A series of mostly black and white portraits that reveal the love and enrichment pets give their owners who are homeless.

Working on this series and meeting the people behind the exterior has been a pleasure and a privilege and is often very moving. Everyone has a story to tell, but many of these lives are much more extreme in both their simplicity and their complexity. Interacting with these fascinating faces of our city and their animal companions is a project very close to my heart.

My aim was to produce strong and sympathetic images that would help raise awareness of those experiencing homelessness in Sydney and then continue to document the fabulous effort to help ensure this situation is supported.

Thank you Linda. Check out Linda’s work on Instagram, or visit her website here.