Going with Grace
One photographer’s mission to capture comforting images of cats in their last days.
Pet photographer Jennifer Starr’s specialty is an unusual one: end-of-life photo shoots.
Starr’s journey as a pet photographer began in 2009 when she started photographing pets at her local Olathe, Kansas animal shelters. When she began receiving requests from people wanting emergency photo sessions, she realized there was a need for a special type of session celebrating a pet’s life and bond with their owner.
“Typically, they would tell me their pet was diagnosed with cancer or another unexpected illness and wanted to capture their pet before they crossed the rainbow bridge,” she says.
The realization spurred Starr to create Going with Grace. Her mission is to offer custom photography for senior or critically ill pets at a reduced rate.
“I hoped offering a discount would encourage more people to have their pets photographed, since so many are also juggling the expenses of end-of-life care,” says Starr. “Helping people navigate these delicate moments in their life gives me a sense of purpose… I feel called to perform this service.”
Liz Musil was one such individual. Musil reached out to Starr and booked a session for her 19-year-old cat, Dazey, after he was diagnosed with cancer.
“Seven years later, I still miss him and cherish those pictures so much,” says Musil. “He was my pet soulmate so having our love captured means everything.”
Angela Lamb’s cat, Cole, was 18 and a half when he passed. Their session took place in her home just two days before she said goodbye.
“It’s a reminder how time-sensitive these sessions are,” says Starr.
“It was one of the best things I could have done to make the loss of my beloved Cole easier,” says Lamb. “It has been several years and I still cherish the photos as much today as I did the day they were taken. Having professional photos of us together and photos of him in his favorite spots around the house are priceless.”
The sentiment is shared among Starr’s clients.
“I see how much these photos mean to people, especially after they say goodbye to their pets,” says Starr. “Just knowing that a simple photo session can provide such immense comfort during and after their loss is beyond touching to me. It’s the heartfelt messages from people telling me how thankful they are that really keep me strong.”
Advice For People Facing the Loss of a Beloved Cat
Photographer Jennifer Starr urges pet parents to photograph the family and pets together every year and compare photos as the years progress. “Even if you don’t choose a professional, you can use the self-timer on your phone and set up a tripod,” she says. “Remember to take lots of videos too—the videos we discovered after our beloved Abby crossed the bridge provided us great peace.”
Find more about Jennifer and her Going With Grace photo sessions at petsgoingwithgrace.com.