Portlander Kristin Zabawa’s career in photography has managed to let her venture into the valley of the shadow of death, from where she returns with beautiful images. Zabawa says when it comes to people whose companion animals are approaching life’s end, it is often an intensely private and painful time, but one in which being emotionally beset can interfere with memories.
That's one of the reasons Zabawa, a former zookeeper, makes herself available to join alongside people and their pets to gently photograph precious moments while there’s time.
Some pet parents who’ve asked Zabawa to photograph their late-life pets have said the images have been critical in helping them process their grief. Zabawa says for her, the sessions are almost like a meditative practice. She is “a respectful, quiet witness,” never using flash photography. Capturing late-life moments between people and their animal family members is what Zabawa calls SoulSessions.
"People have shared with me that their Soul Session has given them a quiet time to just be with the soul who has given them so much,” Zabawa shares. “A chance to feel the love, and to love and remember a life shared. To have the images from this time can help them feel the presence of their animal kin, to feel the love will always surround them.”
Zabawa doesn't charge for the sessions, but will accept donations. Her goal is to establish a nonprofit, enabling her to do the work full time. In a crowd-funding effort toward this end, she has received support from as far away as Vietnam, Peru, and Germany, with several UK sites picking up her story.
The images on Zabawa’s website of those private moments say it all: A woman with soft lines etched in her face lays her cheek gently against her beloved cat. A little girl sweetly cradles her kitty. A family curls around their aged dog, cradling their beloved in beating hearts and loving arms.
The love shines in both directions, and the camera doesn't lie. And therein lies the magic.
Captured in the breadth of a camera shutter, preserved forever, shines the love of a lifetime, shared between precious animals and their people.
Learn more at SoulSessions photography on Facebook.
Christy Caballero writes from her soul about animals. She's received four Maxwell Awards from the Dog Writers Assn of America. There are two retired racers (greyhounds) and one kinda neurotic foster greyhound and three BIG RagaMuffin kitties at home who are occasionally impressed enough to let her and her hubby Herb sit on the couch with them.