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A photographer’s ‘tail’

Mary Bloom focuses her lens on animals

Created date

October 26th, 2010

Every now and then, a person experiences a flash of clarity. A second in time when a problem is solved or a discovery is made. That instant when the proverbial light bulb goes off in your head. Some people call this an epiphany; others call it an a ha moment. Mary Bloom s a ha moment came in 1979 while sailing along the Gulf of St. Lawrence aboard an English fishing trawler.

Answering a call

In her late 30s at the time, Bloom worked for a computer company, but her passion lay elsewhere. A life-long animal lover, Bloom spent much of her spare time helping The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in New York City. It was through ASPCA that Bloom ended up on that trawler in the ice floes of Northern Canada. A fledgling photographer with less then a year of experience, Bloom was there to document a protest against the clubbing of harp seals. As the protest got underway, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived on the scene and asked all the photographers to hand over their cameras. Bloom slipped her camera into her pocket and since female news photographers were something of a rarity back in 1979, no one even suspected she was a photographer. When the cameras were returned, all the film had been destroyed. Bloom s were the only photos of the event that survived. Through a bit of luck and stealth, Bloom s film was transported back to the U.S. and delivered to the Associated Press. Not long after that, she received a Teletype message she says she will never forget: Pictures great. Front page around the world. That Teletype was not the only message Bloom got on that trip. It was as if the universe was telling me my story, she says. That was my turning point because I felt that I had been able to influence something I believed in with my camera. I realized that I could never return to what I had been doing before because I had a calling. It was my sign directing me where to take my life. Bloom left her computer job and committed herself to helping animals in need. When I discovered that I could be a voice for them that I could use my photography skills to tell the story of grayhounds at a race track or the gray seals in Scotland, I knew that s what I was meant to do. Since then, Bloom s photographs have appeared in numerous publications includingLife,People, andSmithsonianmagazine. Photography has changed a great deal since she first started taking pictures and so has the public s awareness of animals. Today, you hear quite a bit about animal abuse on the news, but back then it was a story that never really got any attention, she says.

Her first love

In recent years, Bloom has focused her attention on dogs. Since 1995, she has been an official photographer for the famed Westminster Kennel Club. I love going to dog shows, she says. I had been going to Madison Square Garden to see the Westminster Dog Show since I was a child. Bloom says her great love of dogs comes from the fact that her mother raised them to a small extent, so dogs have always been an important part of her life. I used to sit and readDog Worldas a child and I was particularly captivated by the pictures in the magazine, she says. And now, 64 years later, I m contributing to the magazine. And maybe some little girl is reading it and looking at my pictures. It s really a full circle I ve gone back to who I was as a little girl. This past spring, Bloom was photographing a group of rambunctious puppies when one of them knocked her over, breaking her leg and seriously damaging her knee. Recovery has been slow going with an extended stay in the hospital and months of rehab. Over the summer, she graduated from a wheel chair to a walker and has high hopes of moving on to a cane with feet in the near future. Bloom is eager to get back to work as soon as she possibly can.

Laughing out loud

Despite the mishap, Bloom loves dogs as much as ever and she credits her own two dogs as a vital part of her recovery. The companionship of an animal in later years is a very important addition to your life. And if you can get that animal from the shelter you are doing so much good, says Bloom. They make it fun to come home. My Corgi, Pie, has a great sense of humor. If you live alone, you probably don t burst out laughing very often. But, thanks to my dogs, I do!