Our little family has been handed an absolute dream of an opportunity. We are moving to Canada. With a heavy heart we are saying goodbye to our family, our friends, our valued clients and our beautiful home in South Africa.
I come from a family of globetrotters. I was 6 when I flew on an intercontinental flight for the very first time. In 2000 my parents upped their lives in Germany and moved us half way across the world to South Africa. I was just 10 years old. I have never known a different life, to live in one house, one city or one country your entire life. Suffice to say, moving around was my normal. I made friends, built relationships and careers in country after country ever since I became an independent adult, though one country stuck. One country remained home, until now.
How did I get started on my journey as a dog photographer and where is our new life taking us?
I grew up in a rural town called George, South Africa. Here I went to school, met lifelong friends, learnt to swim, to dance, and to camp. I passed my drivers license, attended my Matric (grade 12) farewell, and flew over the mountains to a festival in a Cessna with my two best friends who happened to be working towards their private pilot licenses. Life in South Africa was nothing short of amazing, certainly I will never take it for granted, not for one second.
It’s ultimately what pulled me back home after my studies and work in Germany came to an end. I came back to start a career in photography. I can’t tell you what made me want to be a photographer. I think it’s just one of those thoughts that hit you square in the face and make themselves right at home in the forefront of your mind. Photography was wonderful, it was beautiful, creative and captured the very memories I am so very fond of. Though something still did not feel quite right, until a friend helped me out.
She asked me, “what makes you happy, Mel?” to which I could only answer: “photographing dogs.”
Becoming a Dog Photographer
I lived with 3 cats growing up, yet my love for dogs in particular was unparalleled. I have loved dogs for as long as I can remember. I read countless books, studied multiple trainers and fell in love with the world of dog training. Coincidentally this was the secret ingredient to my success in dog photography. Knowing how to work with them enabled me a deeper understanding in how to get the shot I was after. It helped me read their body language to discern any discomfort and to set their mind and body at ease. Exploring methods to grab their attention and to capture quirky characters made my heart sing.
Around the same time my parents adopted a beautiful little collie cross called Sheila. She became my entire world. She was smart, incredibly food hungry and aimed to please. As a result I taught her a few simple poses and snapped a couple of photos. Needless to say I was hooked. And so was Sheila! My camera became her new best friend, whenever it appeared it seemed to be raining hotdogs. What more could a dog want, and with such a happy dog with a tail going 90miles a minute, what more could I want.
And so my career in pet photography truly started. I immersed myself in the dog world of South Africa. I befriended rescue organisations, as well as dog sport enthusiasts, groomers, trainers and dog owners. I was part of their inner circle and I can never express the gratitude I feel from having had the privilege of being a part of this incredible community that share so much love for our canine friends. Having this community take joy in my photographs gave my life a purpose, and I am heartbroken to be moving away from it.
I’m sure I don’t need to go into great detail on our reasons for wanting to move away. We all know of the hardships we as adults face on a daily basis in South Africa. The grim reality of not being able to work, as well as our endless search for safety and security. Leaving South Africa is not a decision we took lightly, but our reasons were simply too important to ignore.
As I mentioned before, moving to a new country is not new to my family. I love to travel, to experience new cultures, foods and people, and the American culture has always appealed to me. I’m a movie aficionado. I made videos as a child, studied and received a bachelors degree in filmmaking, and own entire bookshelves full of film history books. Of course the majority of movies I ever got to see are American so naturally I have become familiar and enamoured with their way of living. In particular their beautiful and vast landscapes, over the top holiday celebrations, incredibly friendly people. It bears enough resemblance to my years living in Europe that I can take comfort in familiarity, yet it’s also foreign enough to make it an exciting new adventure.
I set foot in Canada for the first time in September 2022. It absolutely took my breath away. I look forward to this new adventure of ours, and take comfort in the fact that we are moving to a country that is not only good to their human residents, but to their furry ones too. Canada is incredibly dog friendly and people seem to be enjoying their company no matter what they do and where they go. It’s my own personal heaven and I hope to be able to share this through my photos with all of you, who I have met over my wonderful, unforgettable time in South Africa.