BATESVILLE Over the past 16 years, Batesville photographer Matthew Schuetz has been bitten by a “weiner” dog and has refereed a dog fight and snapped portraits of owners with their boa constrictors, iguanas in sombreros, guinea pigs and ferrets. That doesn’t include all the families — cat and dog owners — who show up each December to get their pictures taken and make a contribution to the Humane Society of Independence County.
Schuetz of Matthew’s Photography said he does Portraits With Pets every year during the holidays as a way to help out the humane society because he and his wife, Deborah, “are animal lovers, too. We’ve adopted our share of pets over the years, and we’ve loved every one of them,” he said. This year’s event took place Dec. 1 in Batesville’s Town Plaza shopping center on Main Street.
Bev Finch, executive director of the Humane Society of Independence County’s no-kill animal shelter, said that by taking the portraits, Schuetz has raised more than $20,000 for the shelter over the past 15 years. Portraits With Pets offers five portrait packages, ranging in price from $32 to $138, with the cost of half of each package going directly to the shelter to help cover its operating costs.
Finch said the money is used at the shelter for everything from pet food to towels to cleaning supplies. The $32 package includes two 5-by-7-inch prints and eight wallet photos. Cards are also available. Matthew’s Photography waives its usual sitting fee to encourage families to get their Christmas portraits made and help out the shelter.
Connie Coleman, a longtime volunteer at the Batesville shelter, came up with the idea for the first Portraits With Pets, Finch said. It was then that the two women approached photographer Schuetz. Finch helps him load up their vehicles each year in early December in order to carry three different backgrounds and props to a Main Street location. This year’s props included an antique chair, a sleigh, a Christmas tree, books and dog toys.
“I’ve had some pretty unusual people and pets over the years,” Schuetz said. He and his assistant, Marie Long, share the portraiture duties. “We have shot pictures of snakes, a little horse, parrots, one of those iguana things with the collar, … and he was wearing a tiny sombrero,” Schuetz said. “I’ve taken portraits of people with their ferrets, guinea pigs and parakeets.”
“We always go home tired,” Finch said. She and other humane society volunteers always attend the day-long event and help wrangle pets. “We bring along a duck call — the dogs seem to like that — and some garland or a feather for the cats.”
“The cats are always harder [to get a good picture of],” Schuetz said.
“I had one lady whose picture I took with her kitty, and that cat never looked up at the camera once. He just kept looking down.”
The humane society and the photo studio both book appointments for the event, usually the first Saturday in December.
“We schedule about six an hour,” Finch said.
“We allow 10 minutes per appointment,” Schuetz said. “And that can equal 35 to 40 different portraits an hour, depending on how the families want to pose. Some want to include a pet, and some don’t.
“Some want a picture of just their dogs, or a picture of the family with the dogs and without the dogs.”
In addition to volunteer Coleman, Finch and Schuetz said Arthur Gilbert has been helping at Portraits With Pets for the past 12 years.
“He’s really good with pets,” Schuetz said. “He’s such a nice man, and he has so much fun.