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Chris Ameruoso: Photography Gone to the Dogs:
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This led to a seven-page spread about Ameruoso and his work in People magazine. Then he was asked to do a shoot with nine celebrities who posed with some of the search-and-rescue dogs from Ground Zero. This photo session took place at South Street Seaport, close to the catastrophic events of 9/11. “It was my first time at Ground Zero,” Ameruoso says. “And it was still smoking.”

The Osbournes have a managerie of pets, and a gallery wall above their staircase of Ameruoso images.

Left: Let sleeping dogs lie—Lola, the Osbournes’ Bulldog.
Above: Ozzie with Chewy.

Animal & Human Subjects
In spite of his lack of formal training in photography, Ameruoso is a great example of someone who’s been able to make things happen. “What I really like is that I get a lot of e-mail from people saying that I really inspired them.” He’s worked with other subject matter from time to time—he’s done some photography for Rolling Stone magazine, has photographed Slash (from the group Guns & Roses) with his car, and some product shots. “There’s a lot of work involved in shooting products,” he says.

Much of this work is done at his apartment, and he sometimes rents a studio. But pets and people remain his primary focus. “I get calls from celebrities who want personal pictures taken of them with their pets.” Perhaps Ameruoso’s favorite subject is his own dog, Stella Blue, a tiny Chinese Crested that appears in some of his photos. (Stella posed with actress Julianne Moore in Pets and Their Celebrities.)

Sharon with Maggie.

Jack and Lola.

When asked about photo tips, Ameruoso says that above all, “You need to have a lot of patience—give animals a break once in a while. After about 10 minutes they’ll mellow out and will be ready to be photographed again.” He also maintains that although he’s photographed a variety of animals, “dogs are a little easier than cats to shoot.” Ameruoso prefers to use continuous light sources. “Pets warm up to that type of light. They relax and curl up a little.” He feels that flash or strobe light is more intrusive. He uses Photoflex lighting and often uses reflectors—particularly gold—to warm up skin tones.

Ameruoso says he avoids putting his subjects in contrived poses, and goes for a more-candid look. “I let people do what they want for the first few minutes, and then I may alter their pose a little. I’m not into people looking at the camera and smiling.”
“What I’ve learned is to keep things minimal—there’s me and maybe just one other person on a shoot. Also, the pet owners are nearby, which makes the animal more comfortable.” Ameruoso says he’s rarely had a problem working with animals (no doubt, they sense that he’s a pet lover).

American flag-clad Natasha Allas (formerly Miss World), with her Laborador Retriever; Natalie

Dana Daurey (of the TV show, Providence) with her dog, Tucker.

A Switch to Digital
After his successful beginnings with the compact IS-20 camera, Olympus invited Ameruoso to try digital photography. First, they sent him the C-3030, which became his first foray into digital imaging. From there, he moved on to the E-10, and most recently, the E20n. “I also carry the C-5050 around. This camera really has a professional quality.” With regard to the quality of digital cameras Olympus offers, he says, “I think they’re doing a lot for consumers.” In addition to having his work displayed at the Olympus booth during trade shows, the company sponsored a recent gallery showing of Ameruoso’s work. (The proceeds from this show benefitted an L.A.-based charity, “Last Chance for Animals.”)

Ameruoso comments, “Some people are afraid to make the switch from film to digital, but it’s really not that difficult—I have Olympus to thank for that.” He feels that the quality of digital imaging has come a long way, and emphasizes that in terms of saving time and expenses, “there’s no comparison.” Ameruoso uses Adobe Photoshop, and “I bring everything through Genuine Fractals.” He makes his own high-quality prints with Olympus’ P-400 dye-sublimation printer.

Charlotte Ross with her two rescue dogs, Taco and Katy.

E.G. Daily (a singer and actress) and her dog Jake.

Future Plans
Currently, Ameruoso is working on his second book about celebrities and their pets. He’s also photographed actress Stefanie Powers and her dog for a Cesar’s dog food advertisement. “We videotape all of our shoots for an upcoming one-hour television special on celebrities and pets,” he adds. This special, entitled “Behind the Lens,” will document some of Ameruoso’s celebrity/pet photo shoots. He says he’s interested in directing animal awareness pieces, and possibly some music videos. One day, he says he’d like to buy a house with enough property to start a small farm. (Currently, as an apartment dweller, he lives with a mini parrot named PeeWee, as well as Stella.)

Ameruoso loves what he does, and has become very successful. Nonetheless, he’s not one to forget how the whole thing began. Today when he sees Janeane Garofalo, he enjoys telling her, “Because of you, I have a career.”

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