Animals aren't always treated like living beings in Pakistan, but a new photo shoot of hurt but happy strays hopes to change that.
Titled #ProjectEmpathy, the photo shoot is an initiative by Ayesha Chundrigar Foundation, an animal welfare organisation that rescues abandoned and/or abused stray animals in Karachi and provides them with food, shelter, free medical treatment and rehabilitation.
Filmmaker Umar Riaz did the cutest photo shoot with some of their previously injured and abused stray animals and we can't stop saying "awww"!
Talking to Images, Ayesha Chundrigar, the driving force behind the shelter, shares, "The concept of the shoot was entirely the photographer Umar Riaz's, so I give him full credit for that. He understood what we wanted to convey, which is that stray animals whether they have one eye, one ear, three legs, it doesn't matter. They're all beautiful because it's their souls that are beautiful."
"They feel, they love, they care just like people do. We're trying to show a different side of stray animals, a side people don't normally see."
"We wanted to convey that stray animals, whether they have one eye, one ear, or three legs, it doesn't matter. They're all beautiful because it's their souls that are beautiful," says Ayesha Chundrigar
So who exactly are the models of #ProjectEmpathy?
"We have three three-legged dogs. There's Tilt, Trio and Missy. We have a little donkey, Bella who was born at the shelter. She is super spoilt, everyone at the shelter just adores her! We call her Bella because she has these Bambi legs so she doesn't quite walk, she prances so she just looks like a little dancing Bella," Ayesha tells us.
"Then there's Boiler. When she came in, it was one of the most terrible cases we've seen; one side of her face and head was completely exposed because someone had actually thrown boiling water on her. It blinded her and we had to amputate her ear."
"She was so scared when she came in, she wouldn't let us touch her, she couldn't believe that a human was going to fix her because a human had harmed her. It's been a really long healing process but she's really come through and she doesn't even remember now that she doesn't have an eye or an ear. She's a very happy cat," Ayesha shares.
Who names these animals, we wonder?
"It's a joint effort. Sometimes we ask people on social media; otherwise, it's just all of us at the shelter, from my vets to the cleaners. Some of the names have to do with their history as well."
"Some animals were photobombing others. They were so funny and disruptive. If human beings were so disruptive I wouldn't have enjoyed the shoot but this was adorable," shares photographer Umar Riaz
We also reached out to the man behind the lens, Umar Riaz to ask him what inspired him to photograph the animals this way.
"I just thought it would be interesting to shoot the animals like you would shoot human portraits."
Was it challenging working with animals?
"The animals were familiar with me as I had visited the shelter before. They were so comfortable with me that a couple of the three-legged dogs would, as soon as we'd place them in their spot, run to me and sit in my lap so there was a little back and forth. They just needed love and care and some encouragement during the shoot. It was hard for them to sit still," explains Riaz,
"Some animals were photobombing the ones we were photographing. They were so funny and disruptive. If human beings were so disruptive I wouldn't have enjoyed the shoot but this was adorable."
Expanding on the state of stray animals in Pakistan, Ayesha says, "They're in quite a deplorable state because no one has been doing anything for them. Not just stray dogs and cats but also donkeys on the roads. There's no protection for them, no laws for them."
"Before if people would see an injured animal, there was no sense of 'let's do something' because there was no place to really take them. Now that there's a platform for animals to heal, there's hope and people are responding accordingly. It's getting better, very slowly and gradually."
View the entire album here.