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Alex Cearns - From Law Maker to Image Maker

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by Jon Cocks (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in the Adelaide Hills.
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Alex captures shots of animals being themselves




Alex Cearns OAM is a singularly talented photographer, known for her pet, animal, and wildlife photography. Founder of Houndstooth, a dedicated and well-appointed studio for animal photography, Alex Cearns stays very busy photographing roughly 1300 animals per year, both in the studio and on location, often in the wild.

A breakthrough snap of blue clams in a breeding facility on the Cocos Keeling Islands in 2008 being featured in two art galleries led to wider recognition and a growing realisation that her passion for animal photography could become her life. She walked away from her career that began in the WA Police Force and moved into the Federal Government as a Senior Transport Security Inspector, sacrificing job security, superannuation and steady income for the great unknown of freelance photography. Her weekend obsession evolved into a life celebrating the lives of animals in digital imagery.

In a roundabout way, she has achieved her journalistic ambition as a 17-year-old, but the career evolution spanned a couple of decades and a long learning curve, before her vision of animal welfare coalesced with her conscious acts behind the lens to realise the dream job and bring joy to animal lovers everywhere, beginning with her 120,000 Facebook followers. She has made the world a better place through philanthropic works. Her skill and patience to wait for the right moment to hit the shutter button has raised many thousands of dollars for animal welfare, both in the wild and in recovery from inhumane treatment. Her candid animal snaps tell stories in images.



She came to Adelaide to deliver two Fringe shows at the National Wine Centre's Gallery Room on March 16 and 17. She is a genuine animal lover who patiently seeks the truth in every shot she takes. Her mission is to celebrate our animal kingdom, both domesticated and in the wild, by capturing images of them being themselves. Her show took the form of an extended PowerPoint presentation that featured many of her more celebrated snaps. She spoke to each slide in an unaffected, natural manner, not unlike an old-fashioned slide night. Each image was accompanied by entertaining anecdotes.

There was a close-up of a mature-age male orangutan, for all the world grinning into the camera. Cearns revealed to us that the primate's apparent glee was genuine. Behind her back, another orangutan had a handful of its own poo to throw at Cearns and her companions, who were saved by the keeper's vigilance and sharp order to 'drop it.' There were tales of elephants and tigers, Emperor Penguins in Antarctica, a feral pig namesake, whom she tamed with a good belly rub and more.

Alex Cearns has authored or co-authored six books and has made it her business through Perfect Imperfection to raise awareness of abused animals through her images of dogs missing eyes, legs or other bodily parts. The beautifully captured pup with the permanent wink is missing an eye, but all intents grinning without a care in the world can hardly fail to inspire.

When asked how she would like to be remembered, she referred at once to her images (over four million on file) that will live on, when she is gone, allied to an enhanced public acceptance of animal welfare. Well played, Alex.

Five stars out of five, for sheer substance of story over superficiality.
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Why? Animal welfare advocacy
Where: National Wine Centre, Cnr Hackney and Botanic Rd, Adelaide, SA, 5000
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