Grace Chon is a former art director in the advertising industry and self-taught photographer. She merges her art director background with her photography work, creating modern, lifestyle portraits of people and animals. Her clients include animal brands like Milkbone and Purina, greeting card and calendar companies, non-profits like Best Friends Animal Society and The Shelter Pet Project, and she's made appearances on the Oxygen Network and HGTV. When she's not capturing stunning images of both pets and people, Grace likes to go hiking with her dogs, meditate, and grow organic heirloom tomatoes. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, baby boy, and their beloved rescue dogs, Maeby and Zoey.
Grace recently spoke to Cuteness.com about how her love for animals has shaped both who she is as a person as well as her work.
Tell us about your first pet.
I had so many pets when I was a child that it's hard to remember exactly which was first. But I had fish named Abe and Lincoln, hermit crabs named Pee Wee and Herman, and parakeets named Sunny and Dale. I've always loved animals, but as a young child was only allowed to have the little, non-furry variety as pets! My fondest memory about all of them was simply observing them, taking care of them, and loving them.
Tell us about your current pets.
I'm currently the lucky guardian of 2 dogs named Maeby and Zoey. Maeby is a rescue dog from Mexico that I adopted in San Diego. We think she might be a Whippet/Doberman mix and she is the sweetest dog ever! Her foster mom actually named her "Sweetie" and she truly lives up to that name. I'm pretty sure she's my soul mate (sorry to my husband!). She filled a hole in my heart that I didn't even know was there, and she even knew I was pregnant before I did. Zoey is a rescue dog from Taiwan that I found online. I didn't know until I adopted her that Taiwan has a huge population of homeless dogs. A group called Animal Rescue Team Taiwan finds rescue groups in the US that will rehome these dogs, and they find volunteers to fly to the US with them. Zoey is my first puppy and even though she's 8, she'll always be my baby! I didn't think it would be possible to love my dogs anymore than I already do, but once I had my first human baby and saw how loving and respectful they are of our new pack member, my love for them has grown even more. I'm so proud of them for being such great big sisters.
If we asked your current pets to describe you, what do you think they would say?
Maeby would say, "My mom really needs to relax and live in the moment more, but I love her so much and I think she's a great mom." and Zoey would say "My mommy gives the best belly rubs ever!!!! Belly rub time!"
How has being a pet owner influenced who you are and possibly even how your run your business?
Becoming a dog owner completely changed my life. I was a total workaholic, working in the advertising industry as an art director. My work was my life and I always imagined I'd eventually become a workaholic creative director someday. Then I adopted Maeby and everything changed. Suddenly working so much just didn't seem as important and she opened my heart in ways I didn't think was possible. I suddenly wanted to spend more time at home with her and my boyfriend (now husband) and I longed to do something meaningful with my life. I started a pet photography business that I worked on at nights and on weekends while I continued my incredibly stressful job in advertising. After 9 months moonlighting as a pet photographer, I quit my job in advertising to focus on photography and haven't looked back! Now that I'm a commercial animal photographer, I bring so much gratitude and respect for animals to my job. There is so much ego in creative industries like advertising and photography, but I feel it's such a privilege to photograph animals for a living. I check all ego at the door when I'm on set because at the end of the day, I want to be as good of a person as my dogs think I am.
Have your pets taught you any valuable life lessons?
Live in the moment! It's a lesson I am still trying to master.
If you could spend an entire day hanging out with a wild animal in its natural habitat, which would you choose and why?
I would want to go to Costa Rica and hang out with sloths! I love how slow they are and how in the moment they seem to be. I have a total Type-A personality and am always running at 100 mph. I would love to hang out with sloths to slow down and be mindful. Also, now that I've become a mom, sleeping has become nonexistent. Hanging out with a sloth and sleeping in a tree for 15 hours a day sounds like the heaven!