Houston based photographer Robyn Arouty probably didn’t realize it at the time, but when she made the decision to leave her psychology career in private practice and go into photography, she changed not only her life but the lives of many dogs. My English cocker spaniel, Euri, and I recently had an opportunity to have a photo shoot with Robyn Arouty who was able to capture shots that not only show the true bond between my cocker kid and me, but Euri’s many expressions.
Why did you decide to leave psychology and go into photography?
It was a very natural transition for me. About six years ago, I decided to turn my hobby into a career. My creative juices were overflowing at the time. I ran a very successful eBay store and had a photography studio in my home. Pretty soon people started to notice my product photography work and I was hired for different jobs. Then I began volunteering at BARC (the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care) and taking pictures of the adoptable animals. One thing led to another, really but my psychology experience is so valuable to my work today. Oftentimes, it’s about the relationship with a client and the trust they feel in front of the lens. It’s my job to create that trusting environment. Capturing their true essence is very important to me. I don’t like fake.
Had you ever taken a photographer class before or you started from scratch five years ago?
Although I have a Masters in Psychology, my undergraduate degree is in Communications (Radio/TV/Film) from the University of Texas at Austin where I was able to take introductory photography classes as part of the Communications curriculum. I remember it being very technical and not hands on, but I always wished for more formal training. I think the best training is practice, practice, practice, and making all the mistakes and figuring out how to fix them on your own. I also have very generous mentors that have helped me tremendously along the way.
How long have you lived in Houston?
28 years. Boy, it seems like yesterday that my family moved here from New York — Long Island to be more specific. I was a sophomore in high school at the time. Talk about a culture shock! I am still a New Yorker at heart. I still have the attitude and I’d like to think, the down-to-earth-ness.
Do you still photograph dogs at BARC? Do you still work with the Houston Press to publish those photographs?
Yes. Craig Malisow and myself work on the feature approximately twice a month. I thoroughly enjoy it and have found many homeless animals homes as a result. Here is a link to one of the latest features:http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2010/09/i_wanna_be_your_dog_or_cat_13.php
Do you still volunteer at BARC? If so, what are your primary duties there?
I work with many rescue organizations in town to find animals homes — both at BARC and on my own. Sometimes BARC contacts me for creative projects, photography opportunities or special events. I also admire Friends of BARC for the tireless work they do and try to help them as best I can. I will always be involved with BARC in some form or fashion.
Do you find it difficult to work with animals? Do you do anything in particular to get them to relax?
Actually, working with animals is awesome and comes very easily to me. I always take the time at the beginning of the photo shoot to make friends, talk to them and give them treats in order to get them used to looking at me. Being aware of their level of interest throughout the shoot is important too, so we sometimes take breaks to play and goof around before getting back to the business of photos.
You do studio shots as well as location shots. Which do you prefer? Do you find one easier than the other?
They are totally different. I started with the natural light, so that is my first love, of course.
Working with natural light, what times to you prefer to take photographs for the location shots?
The best times are early morning and late afternoon, so approximately 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. depending on the time of year. I prefer cloudier days as the clouds provide a natural diffuser for the sun — perfect!
Do you have any funny stories about any photo shoots?
I love my job. Every shoot is so much fun. We laugh and joke and it just doesn’t seem like work at all. One time we were on a photo shoot near the Heights. This was before I had my wonderful assistant, Nicole. The direct sun was really ruining a shot. Just then, a pickup truck drove by with a huge piece of cardboard in the back. I waved to the guy driving to ask if we could have the cardboard. Not only did he give us the cardboard, he stayed for a while and held it up to block the sun!
One of your signature shots is placing a dog between his owner’s legs while the owner is standing. How did you think of that?
I did a photo shoot about a year ago with Amy Klotz and her BARC rescue dog Lexi at an old train depot near downtown Houston. I have never seen more love, I swear. At one point, Lexi was standing between Amy’s legs looking up at her with the biggest doggie grin you’ve ever seen. I snapped a picture and later posted to Facebook. The response was amazing. That photo went on to appear in my show at the women’s boutique, Method, a few months ago. It was called “Bliss” and it now hangs in Amy’s home.
What is your favorite location for shooting?
Crusty/rusty/industrial warehouses, old buildings, abandoned structures — anything with interesting architectural details. I love metal, graffiti, chipped paint, power meters, etc.
What makes your style different than other Houston pet photographers?
Wow, I’m actually not familiar with too many other pet photographers in Houston but I follow the work of many across the country. My work probably stands out as a bit edgier than most. I enjoy working with other photographers and I am a founding member of HeARTs Speak, an organization that works to unite the individual efforts of animal artists & animal rescues into collective action for social change.
What type of photographs will you not take?
My family knows not to ask me to take “snapshots” at our special events. In fact, I normally leave my camera at home.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
I just finished shooting the cover (and some inside surprises) for Houston Pet Talk Magazine’s November issue. I’ve also put together a fun program to raise money for Houston rescue organizations. It’s called “Pocketshots” and our first event is November 13th: a fundraiser for Lone Star Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso Rescue. And, I’ll be shooting a wedding in February with the cutest couple — sure to be lots of fun, as they have given me full creative license!
*Become a fan of Robyn Arouty Photography on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/robyn-arouty-photography/216471904276.
**To learn more about Robyn Arouty Photography, visit RobynArouty.com.