When photographer Eva Hagel lost her dog Cleo she was devastated by the quiet void left in her home.
“She was the type of dog that would sleep under the covers with you, have tea parties with my girls, and was always there when you needed a shoulder to cry on.”
Her loss intensified when she realized that she had very few photos of her beloved pet and even fewer of the two of them together.
This was a heartbreak she didn’t want anyone else to experience. She selflessly started Project Cleo to offer free photography sessions for dying dogs and the humans who love them.
Eva calls these “Bliss Sessions.” She says that, although there are often tears, these photos are about celebrating the life humans have had with their dogs. These celebrations ease the pain of having to say goodbye by creating lasting memories.
Eva told us:
“I can see the pain in people’s eyes, and I feel the heavy hearts and souls when I walk in to a session. By the time we are done with the session though, I can feel that a cloud has been lifted.”
All of these emotions are sometimes difficult for Eva, as well. She shares identifies with both the pain and the joy of her models. But, she has also found peace and a level of healing.
“At first, it was very emotional, and a little more traumatic, as I knew I would never get these moments with Cleo. The more sessions I do, the more joy and love I share by providing Bliss Sessions, my heart heals.”
All Bliss Sessions are memorable, but the one that sticks in Eva’s mind the most is Hector, one of the Vicktory Dogs.
“Hector shared his courage with the world. I didn’t know what to expect going into the session, but when I met Hector he just made me smile. What a happy pup and he has an amazing family. The Yoris do amazing work for the Pit Bull world. The support and recovery they give Pit Bulls is no less than amazing. Hector taught me just to keep moving forward. No matter what people’s opinions are of a specific breed….it really doesn’t matter!”
Eva’s most emotional photoshoot was a personal one. Tuesday, the sweet pup of her dear friend and fellow photographer Hillary, broke her back and never recovered.
“I loved Tuesday as if she were my own. When Hillary told me she had hurt her back, my heart sunk. I wanted to believe that it was something minor and she would recover, but she had broken her back. She was so very young and so loving. I had the hardest time keeping it together for the session, I cried for several hours after. When you see your friend in pain, I think it intensifies the feelings.”
Eva’s emotional investment in these photos shines through in the stunning pictures themselves. She not only captures the love between humans and dogs, but her own kind spirit, as well.
h/t The Huffington Post.