This summer, Nanette Kardaszeski married her two passions: pets and photography.
The longtime photojournalist opened fatdogfoto, a pet-photography studio, in July. Located on Bridge Street in New Hope, the business offers a range of pet-photography options, including in-studio portrait sessions and on-location shoots.
While dogs are her most common subjects, Kardaszeski has seen — and welcomes — pets of all stripes.
“I had a chicken last week,” she laughed.
Pet photography was a career move Kardaszeski came to organically.
The 51-year-old Bucks County native and resident spent decades as a newspaper photographer, working at several dailies and as an Associated Press freelancer.
“With the way everything is going with the newspaper industry, it really makes you think twice about how to sustain a career as a photographer, and I was trying to figure out where to go next,” Kardaszeski said.
A few years ago, she began lending her photography talents to Lambertville-based Animal Alliance, taking pictures of adoptable pets and of organizational events to help the agency promote its rescue work.
“I thought, what better way to help animals than by using my other love, photography?” she said.
Kardaszeski grew up with dogs, and has also owned cats and fish — not to mention the cadre of creatures she feeds from her backyard, she said.
Kardaszeski lost both of her chocolate labs last year, an experience that she said illuminated the value of pet photography.
“When my first dog got sick, I realized I didn’t have any photos of him and me together; I had plenty of him but none of both of us. And I was like, hey there’s really a hole here that I can fill for people.”
Kardaszeski photographs pets by themselves or with their owners and said she’s found many owners chose the latter option.
“I’ve found that people want be in them. Many people consider their pets part of their family, so these are like family photos. For people who have kids, their pet is just another kid, and for those without kids, these are their kids.”
The pets often behave like kids during their sessions, she added.
“They’re very treat-motivated and they’ll pretty much get over any of the ‘why am I here’ stress after about 15 minutes,” she said. “I structure the sessions so they’re fun and it’s not a formal portrait session; I shut the door to the studio and the pets have the run of the place so it’s kind of free-flowing and I leave it up to the animal how it progresses. They’re a lot like kids in that, after about an hour or an hour-and-a-half, they’re done. They’re like, ‘No more treats, I want a nap, let’s go.’”
Kardaszeski also will travel off-site to capture pets and their owners, an option she said that is popular among owners of senior or ill pets prefer.
Located in such an LGBT-centric town, Kardaszeski has photographed many LGBT owners and same-sex couples with their pets, she said.
The town’s high traffic on weekends has been great for business, she added; just recently, she’s photographed visitors from Virginia, New York and New Jersey. Many clients also hail from the immediate area.
“I actually photographed a St. Bernard about a month ago who lives four doors down from the studio and now every day when he’s on his walks he stops at my door and barks for a treat because he remembers,” Kardaszeski laughed, noting New Hope has welcomed her business with open arms. “It’s a great community. I had no second thoughts of where I wanted to put my studio; I wouldn’t want it anywhere else.”