Nanette Martin, Executive Director and Co-founder of Shelter Me Photography, knows first hand the effect a compelling image can have on the heart and soul. Nanette also knows that for a shelter animal, that image can make the difference between life and death.
As an award-winning photojournalist, Nanette found her niche in the chaotic aftermath of some of this country's most infamous hate crimes and disasters, including the brutal murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd in 1998; the Columbine High School massacre in 1999; the Cerro Grande Fire in Los Alamos, New Mexico in 2000; the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001; the Cedar Firestorm in San Diego County in 2003; and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Nanette began using her camera to benefit animals in need in 2001, when she created and sold a limited edition lithograph from images she captured in and around Ground Zero. Print sales brought in $10,000, which she donated to the New York State Troopers to help feed their search and rescue dogs. But ultimately, it was her time in New Orleans four years later that altered the course of her life and career.
While on assignment for People Magazine, Nanette witnessed the number of animals that were left stranded and struggling in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The effect on Nanette was profound. She stayed in Louisiana and directed her efforts toward documenting the animal rescue effort and helping in any way she could.
Nanette's skill proved invaluable when she was asked to photograph a group of homeless dogs prior to their transport to an Atlanta shelter. Drawing on her years of experience photographing disaster victims and survivors, Nanette was able to connect with every dog and capture each one's unique spirit. The results spoke volumes. By the time the transport arrived at the shelter the following day, nearly every dog had a place to call home!
Soon thereafter, having found her calling, Nanette left her editorial photography career and made it her mission to use her camera to help save the lives of shelter animals. By the time she co-founded SMP in 2009, she had photographed over 3,000 homeless animals. That number now exceeds 10,000 and with help from supporters that number will keep growing!
In August 2016, Nanette purchased a 40' coach with the intent to use it to take SMP on the road. She learned to drive it between Denver and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she photographed pets at two shelters affected by the devastating 2016 floods. She continued on to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she taught a workshop and photographed pets before returning home to Denver. In March of 2017, Nanette moved into her coach and headed to Flagstaff, Arizona where she launched SMP's 2017 Coast-to-Coast Workshop Tour. Second Chance Center for Animals was the first of 30 shelters in seven states Nanette would visit in 2017, including Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Florida, photographing over 600 pets and teaching 20 workshops to over nearly 150 shelter workers and volunteers.
In 2018, Nanette photographed 422 pets at 10 shelters across three states and taught six photography workshops to 91 attendees.
Between January and May 2019, Nanette photographed 153 pets at seven shelters across two states and taught five photography workshops to 28 attendees.
SMP shut all travel down the remainder of 2019 due to funding shortages. Nanette used the time away from the rigors of the road and shelter visits to inventory and organize equipment and supplies and develop a program focused on training military Veterans, struggling graduates of the penal system and others looking for a career change how to photograph and promote shelter pets. The goal of this new program is to develop a professional marketing program for individual shelter pets based on a simple premise: If toilet paper can garner a $111 million marketing budget then surely a shelter dog or cat is worth a $25 marketing budget. Especially since no one in the history of history has ever come home after a hard day's work to a hero's welcome by a roll of Charmin !