Pets and Animals

Our fourth and final subtheme explores the animals we share our houses with and our planet.

Cat on the roof

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?

What needs preserving for future generations?

Use the resources below to help you look more closely.

Photo challenges

Have a go at one of our photo challenges.

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.

Portraits with your pet

What do you have as a pet? Share those special relationships with us. Put yourself 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.

Close ups

Experiment with macro photography to create unique portraits of pets and wildlife. 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.

Beach dog


In need of some more inspiration have a look at the work of some of the following artists:

William Wegman

Rinko Kawauchi

120-year-old cat photographs discovered inside a time-capsule by French photographer Mathieu Stern 

Carli Davidson

Robert Bahou

Sophie Gamand

Elke Vogelsang

Andrius Burba

Ron Schmit

Seth Casteel

Vincent Lagrange

Maureen O’Connor 

Graciela Iturbide

Amy Stein

Alex Grace 

Karen Knorr

Need some extra inspiration?

Not everyone has a pet cat or dog, some people have pet lemurs and others don’t have pets, we’ve pulled together some examples from various English Heritage sites so have a look if you need some more inspiration.

Running Wild

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 ring-tailed lemur – Mah-Jongg, even designing the interior of the palace to meet his needs by creating a tropical climate and installing a ladder and trapdoor to his own room!

Wildlife in the Meadows

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, vital for biodiversity.