It's takes three to tangle!
Me and Hands On Exotics owner Seth Falk
Photo by Mikey Sin
I am a pet man. I grew up with a constant rotation of animals in my house. I’m not talking only dogs and cats, but also rats, a snake, an iguana, turtles, and for several months, some salamanders. These creatures have been part of my life as much as my human family has. The first time I saw my dad cry was when we had to put down Piccolo, our beagle, because she bit the mailman. The first time I ran away from home I took a wagon, my blanket and my pet rat Louise up the hill to my favourite fort (we made it back home unscathed in time for dinner). Stew, our pet boa, was always the best way to find a great babysitter. If they passed the giant-snake-in-the-basement test, they were in!
Today, I live with Georgie the cat and Francine the dog (and some human I often refer to as my boyfriend). I thought when I left home I was done with pets until I grew up into a proper adult. I don’t consider myself one of those yet, but still, here they are! Am I a pet addict? Can I not live without some fur, four legs and an extra tiny heartbeat?
Despite all the training, vomiting, barking, mewing, more vomiting, hair and absolute dependence, these animals bring a hell of a lot of joy to life. I’m constantly laughing at my pets, and I see the smiles they put on other people’s faces. Seeing the pets in our portrait series and how deeply rooted they are in the lives of their humans is equally touching. Seeing Sofonda Cox stop traffic while walking through Yorkville with a giant poodle that matches her wig was just beyond.
Adam, who photographed the pet portraits, and Mikey, who shot the rare beasts at Hands on Exotics, both told me the shoots they did were unlike anything they’d ever done. Adam says the series helped him grow as a photographer. Humans can be beautiful, complex and gorgeous subjects, but there’s something about the silent, helpless looks and emotions of animals that challenge us on a completely different level.
Lucinda, our creative director, came up with the headline “Chosen Family,” and I thought it was perfect. Gays and family can be a sensitive subject, but when that family involves animals, things just seem a lot simpler, don’t they?