Rita Earl Blackwell - A Life Saving Photographer

Scott SmithAug 8, 2017

They say a picture speaks a thousand words. That still holds true. In the digital age, pictures also save lives. Renowned photographer, Rita Earl Blackwell, and her Pro-Bono work with animal rescue organizations is saving the lives of countless rescue animals.

Originally from Staten Island, New York, Ritawho has been living in California for the past 20 yearssays her passion for photography goes as far back as she can remember.

On the professional front, Rita photographs "all things lifefamilies, expectant mothers, babies, soulmates, pets, weddings, events, and so on. As she states on website's service section, "I shoot until I’m certain I have a variety of great shots." During a shoot, Rita not only thinks about the present moment but also considers the future. In other words, in 5, 10 and 20 years, Rita wants her clients looking back on those memories with the same enthusiasm as when they actually lived them. It's no wonder she has a booming career. And that's putting it mildly. I guess it's true what they say, "If you love what you do, you'll never work another day in your life." - For more information on Rita's professional services, you can visit her website here.

As for this story, I'm going focus on Rita's considerable involvement with animal rescue. Rita is a big time animal lover who feels a real kinship with the subjects she photographs. Moreover, she has been fostering and adopting senior shelter and rescue dogs for over ten years. She says "their thankful and grateful hearts, along with their Zen personalities, are truly charming. I always suggest adopting a senior. Most people are afraid to get too attached and then lose them, but I try to encourage them to forget about their own heart, and just think of the dogs and help comfort and love them at the time they need it most… The joy and unconditional love from a shelter/rescue pet are like no other."

A  day at the office with a beautiful German Sheppard. Photo credit: Kodi Baker

I initially heard about Rita from Nancy Koch over at Grand-Paws Senior Sanctuary while working on a feature story about senior dogs. Nancy and I were trying to get one of Grand-Paw's rescues, Chance, adopted. So I decided to give Chance the cover image to help his chances of being rescued. The point being, the cover photo I used was taken by Rita Earl. It was a stunning photograph of a senior Pit Bull down on his luck, desperately needing a break. Everybody fell in love with Chance, myself included. Sadly, his health rapidly deteriorated and the only loving move left to make was to show him mercy. Thanks to Rita, Chance left this life loved and cared for by many.

Over the next few months, I kept running into Rita's name and work throughout pet and rescue circles. As a human dad to 7 dogs and a pet editor, I knew it was time to connect with this larger-than-life photographer working miracles left and right.

Rita working with Basset Hounds from DaphneyLand Basset Rescue. Photo credit: Esme Rose Photography

Rita's tireless commitment to giving shelter animals the best chance of finding forever homes is revered by many, some of which I have personally connected with. Dawn Smith of DaphneyLand Basset Rescue was gracious enough to spend some time on the phone with me. She said "Rescue is, by its very nature, an emergency." That is something I always knew to be true, yet I'd never heard expressed in such a compelling way before. Dawn further said, "Rita can take a homeless, scared, and lonely animal and bring out their inner animal creating a work of art. And that work of art increases their chances of being adopted. Dawn has been involved with rescue her whole life and said Rita is the best photographer she's ever worked with.   

On the subject of shelters, Earl perfectly states "most people are too afraid or don’t want to be ‘sad’ when they go to the shelter, so they just don’t go! - I hope my photographs of the pets, along with the volunteers and shelter staff who love them, can change the opinion of all who shy away from visiting."

Through her photography, Rita is virtually showcasing adoptable pets and making sure they have a chance now rather than later. Rita believes a single photograph can capture the attention of a pet's soulmate and hopes that by photographing shelter pets more people will be able to imagine them as a potential addition to the family.

That is where Rita's skill set comes into play. The shelter environment can be quite nerve-racking for a dog. Animals have incredible instincts and can tell when they're at serious risk. Rita helps them relax so that they can feel unburdened and playful again. To capture the perfect shot, Rita, works together with shelter and rescue volunteers. The better she's able to capture the real soul of the shelter animal, the greater their chances of being adopted. 

Rita in action giving animals their best chance of being adopted 

When you have a gift, nothing is more rewarding than sharing it with others. Rita works with 20 different rescue organizations and five Animal Control centers. Click here to read more on Rita's commitment to giving back.

If that didn't impress you enough, Rita is also a member of HeARTs Speak, a network of over 500 members worldwide who donate their time and talent to animal welfare and making sure no shelter animal goes unseen.

I caught up with Hannah Pearman, director of communications for HeArts Speak. Here's what Hannah had to say about Rita, "During her 3 years as a member of the HeARTs Speak Artists Helping Animals program, Rita has grown and emerged as a shining, creative light and wealth of inspiration, both for the animal welfare organizations she works directly with, the community members she trains, and her fellow HeARTs Speak artist members around the world. Her personal style has blossomed into something truly authentic and unforgettable, and she has been a tireless advocate for shelter pets, consistently contributing her time, talents, and infectious sense of humor to elevate adoptable pets into the limelight. We're beyond honored to have Rita as part of our organization. Her kindness, generosity, and respect for collaboration are central to the HeARTs Speak mission to create a world where no shelter animal goes unseen"

I also connected with several rescue organizations that work with Rita. 

James Grant of Animal Wellness Foundation and I spoke for a while last night. He told me that animals really connect to Rita. She's calm and centered which is exactly what they need considering the circumstances they're in and all they've been through. James said "Rita has helped us with adoption events, fostering and getting our pets adopted because of her pictures. He mentioned that being Rita can't be everywhere at once, that when doing a shoot, she'll show them how to get the best pictures for when she's not present. 

Animal Wellness Foundation combines top notch medical care with compassionate animal rescue, which provides homeless pets the best chance at happily ever after.

Julie Fitzsimmons Hill of Little Diva Rescue; "Rita Earl Blackwell is such an inspirational photographer, her pictures are unique, and they touch your soul. She's so compassionate about animals and generously uses her talent to help shelter and rescue dogs find loving homes. She magically captures each dogs personality in every photograph. Recently, one of our dogs was adopted because someone saw a photo she took of him. Her pictures capture the dogs' spirit and tell a story."

Camp Cocker Rescue; "Rita Earl donates her time to photograph our dogs to help them get adopted. Her beautiful photos help our dogs stand out! She helps us immensely with her talent - but she also travels to high-volume animal shelters to photograph hard-to-adopt dogs like seniors. She has single-handedly facilitated the rescue of many many dogs just by highlighting their stories, personalities, their traits, their gorgeous faces all within one single photograph. She pays attention to the dogs that get overlooked by the public like seniors and those that are stuck in medical. Just over the weekend she visited the medical ward over at North Central and found a 17-year-old 4-pound Chihuahua. The very next day a local rescue picked her up and mentioned Rita Earls video. She is very well known around the local rescues and shelters for her tremendous love for senior dogs. We honestly are grateful for her service to the unwanted, and we value her immensely" 

I want to thank Camp Cocker Rescue, Little Diva Rescue, Animal Wellness foundation, HeARTs Speak, DaphneyLand Basset Rescue for assisting me in putting this story together about Rita Earl. It was a privilege connecting with all of you. 

Below are four dogs looking for a loving family and home. Everyone deserves that. Please take a look at them. If I didn't have 7 dogs, I would rescue all 4 of them. If people step up, I will help where I can.