A resource with simple tips and ideas exploring the animal life around us, from family pets to urban wildlife and conservation issues.

Part of England’s New Lenses


Pets are part of our family and contribute to our sense of home. They have always been a central part of our cultural heritage, popping up in family portraits. Even in the grand portraits of stately homes family pets are often front and centre stage in the image.

We are surrounded by creatures, whether we choose to be or not. Look out of your window at the wildlife. Notice the cobwebs in the corner of your room. Take some time to think about the places you find wildlife. What is happening to those habitats?

Explore animal life through the activities suggested here.

Watch For Wildlife

Be still, be present, take notice. Be ready – and patient. Dig a little deeper. Investigate habitats rural or urban. How have they changed over time? Look for and record traces of human impact. Capture creatures large or small.

Postcards To The Future

Wildlife is in decline. Tell us about the wildlife that is important to you. What must be preserved for future generations? Make a postcard with a message. Create a habitat using household objects and add your slogan. It could be a call to action, a statement, a fact or a personal anecdote.

A Day In The Life Of Your Pet

Is your pet your constant companion? Do they entertain you? Tell the story of what they get up to by documenting a day in their life. Is there anything unusual or unexpected? Use props or toys to engage your pet, but also pay attention to moments of rest or favourite spots in the house.

Portrait With Your Pet

What do you have as a pet? Share those special relationships with us. Putyourself in the picture to create a portrait with your pet. Try taking a selfie! Or using a timer or mirror. Capture moments of you resting together, or signs of affection.

Pets And Wildlife Close Up

Experiment with macro photography to create unique portraits of pets andwildlife. Explore forgotten corners and the places you don’t normally look. What pattern and detail do you see? Macro lenses that clip to your smartphone are cheap and widely available. Alternatively try a magnifying glass or even a toy kaleidoscope.

DIY Fish Eye Lens

Experiment with a fresh perspective. Explore natural habitats with a fish eye view. Make your own fish eye lens using a glass of water. Move around and get in close for different viewpoints. Add food colouring to the water for a different effect. 

Top Tips
  • Play with shadows
  • Take action shots!
  • Review your photographs and select your favourites to create a series
  • Keep a low profile if you are photographing wildlif
  • When working with your pet, focus on their eyes!
  • Keep it fun (and safe) for the animal you are photographing
  • Wildlife often emerges after the rain. Go on the hunt during or after a rainfall – take an umbrella!
Inspiring Artists
English Heritage Sites

Running Wild
Eltham Palace, South London

In the 1920s and 30s exotic or unusual pets were all the rage. Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, owners of Eltham Palace, lavished attention and money on their much-indulged ring-tailed lemur Mah-Jongg, even designing the interior of the palace to meet his needs by creating a tropical climate and including a ladder and trapdoor. 

Wildlife in the Meadows
Brodsworth Hall near Doncaster

Meadows are one of the rarest habitats in the UK. The swathes of meadow that would have been seen in English landscapes in the past have now been lost to widespread modern and intensive farming and horticultural practices. English Heritage properties have some of the last remaining meadows, which are vital for biodiversity.

About the Contributors

Annis Joslin’s practice seeks to explore lived experience through a participatory and reflective process. Working in diverse contexts she uses different approaches to generate material, including drawing, animation, photography, video and story-telling to create lens-based digital artwork for galleries, museums, community situations and online.

Her work has exhibited and screened internationally with commissions and projects with organisations including People United, Photoworks, The British Museum, Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, The Royal College of Physicians, The National Trust, The Women’s Library, Project Art Works and The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Annis is also co-director of Corridor, a social arts organisation that connects artists, people and places through collaborative lens-based visual arts projects.

Alejandra Carles-Tolra is a visual artist and photography facilitator from Barcelona, currently based in London, UK.

She received a BA in Sociology from the University of Barcelona and a Photography MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Alejandra’s work has been published and exhibited internationally, most recently at Vice, The Huffington Post, Gup Magazine, World Photography Organization, The Independent, Circulation(s) Festival in Paris, and Getty Images Gallery in London. She has taught photography at The University of New Hampshire and Massachusetts College of Art and Design, among other institutions. Alejandra currently collaborates with non-profit organizations as an art workshop facilitator using art and education to empower vulnerable communities.

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