Northeat Woman: Scranton Photographer Uses Expertise To Help Adoptable Cats
In what used to serve as cells for exotic animals such as a jaguar and a tiger, much smaller abandoned and forsaken cats have found a cozy sanctuary.
Scranton resident Colleen Carey, who can remember the zoo in Nay Aug Park from her childhood, now serves as a volunteer and official photographer for the domestic felines that make up St. Cats and Dogs of Nay Aug Zoo.
When she’s not working her day job as an assistant to local physicians, Carey roams the pens that house dozens of cats of all ages, snapping pics, cleaning up and lavishing attention on the multitudes that reside there.
The 38-year-old curates these photos and behind-the-scenes knowledge into posts for the sanctuary’s Instagram page, which she manages, in the hope that her high-quality portraits will attract more adopters and volunteers.
“I got involved with St. Cats last summer when they had an open house on the 100th anniversary of the zoo,” Carey said. “A couple years ago, I took a cat off the streets and gave her a home and absolutely love her. I wanted be able to help do that for other people.
“There are a lot of stray cats in and around this area, and so many of them are friendly and would love a real home,” she added. “I started the Instagram page to try to reach a younger audience, and to have a place to show people our beautiful cats and to let them know a little about them. I have had several adoptions through Instagram because people fall in love with a certain cat, they message me and then come in to meet the cat.”
A native of the city’s Minooka section, Carey began taking photos around 16 when she picked up an old Minolta SLR camera. She graduated from Scranton High School and earned a commercial art degree from Luzerne County Community College and a fine art degree from Kutztown University with a concentration in film photography, relying on her trusty Minolta throughout school.
As technology advanced and her own artistic direction moved away from studio work to learning how to create photographs, Carey’s expertise in portraiture also evolved. Her leap from film to digital photography actually gave her more freedom, she said.
“I think having been taught both has given me a broader span of work,” Carey explained. “What I really enjoy doing is creating photographs and building every aspect of them.
“I think as an artist, you should continue to grow with your work through your life, which is why I have been studying light for 20 years.”
Her creative expressions have captured events as varied as the Race of the Gentlemen (an annual vintage car and motorcycle race in New Jersey) and the Mermaid Parade on Coney Island. Closer to home, she also shot promotional photos for a recent benefit for the NEPA Chapter of the National Organization for Women.
“I would love to keep doing stuff like that to promote causes locally,” Carey said.
In the meantime, her work for St. Cats — online and in person — takes up a lot of her time, though the end result is worth it, she said.
“This is something that is very important to me because a lot of these cats have been treated very poorly, and you can tell they don’t trust people. We, the volunteers at the shelter, give them time and space, and it’s amazing that first time they walk up and rub their face against you, because it’s a sign of trust and (that) they now feel safe,” Carey said.
“Also, it’s a daily dose of cuteness. I like to say that it’s my antidepressant, because if you go in there in a bad mood, it’s very hard to stay that way when a kitten is trying to tackle you.”
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Meet Colleen Carey
At home: Lives in Scranton
At work: Assistant for two local physicians and manages the Instagram page for St. Cats and Dogs of Nay Aug Zoo
Inspirations: Books, old magazines and creative friends who throw ideas around
Aspiration: To stage
a photography show
Diversions: Reading and taking “mini-adventures,” such as day trips to Wolf Sanctuary of PA and the Mermaid Parade on Coney Island
Aversion: Animal abuse of any kind, including trophy hunting and dog fighting. (“I am an advocate for animals big and small,” Carey said.)
Quote: “Find what you love and let it kill you.” — Charles Bukowski