Val Shaff has been passionate about capturing the profound physical presence of all living beings through photography since she first purchased a country home in the Hudson River Valley in 1992. She had no idea at the time that her obsessive experimentation with analog sepia toned portraits of farm animals would develop into an entire new genre of animal-based art - one of the most successful commercial photography genres ever to be developed.
Val is widely regarded not only as the creator of the sepia-toned animal photography genre - but also as one of the most sought-after personal animal portraiture photographers in the world. Personal animal photographer to Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren, and many other celebrities, artists, and tastemakers, Val’s work with celebrities and their animals has been featured on the covers and in the pages of too many magazines to be listed.
These clients and many others kept Val busy for a frenetic 15 years of personal, advertising, hospitality, design and corporate commissions. Her corporate commissions ranged from shooting animal imagery for The Gap to live installation animal portraiture for Simon Doonan in the store windows of Barney’s New York.
Val’s work has been recognized as fine art and featured internationally. She was represented by the iconic Bridgewater Lustberg Gallery in New York City. Her work has been featured globally including a selection in the prestigious New Natural History exhibit at the English National Museum of Photography, Motion Pictures and Television.
Val has published a series of animal photography books, the first of which landed her on the extended New York Times Best Seller list and won best seller in its division on Amazon. Her second book filled the Christmas windows of Barnes & Noble Fifth Avenue.
It should also be noted that when you meet Val, she will not mention any of this. Her humble focus is and always has been on the two driving purposes of her work: first, to photograph the animals themselves in a way that captures, asserts and defends their profound individualism, beauty and intelligence. And second, to help bring each animal’s unique characteristics to bear positively on the lives of the humans around them.
From those first early days of experimentation in the Hudson Valley, Val’s emotional intention and technical innovation has been to bring the animals into the rooms with us in the most visceral, impactful way possible - like they are really right there with us. Her commercial success is meaningful to Val mainly in that she has helped bring into so many lives these animals’ natural, unquestioned abilities to act on their instincts and develop the forms, purpose and potential they were born with.
Val’s work can currently be viewed and purchased at a select few galleries and destinations in the United States including the Canyon Ranch in Lenox, MA. And for the first time, through her website ValShaffLivingWithAnimals.com, Val now also brings a curated collection of her favorite imagery directly to the home decor market. She hopes that her work will now bring to many peoples’ homes the uplifting spiritual and aesthetic effect of "living with animals.
Purina, The Gap, Ralph Lauren, Martha Stewart Living, In Style, Cigar Afficianado, Town & Country, Hallmark, Harper Collins, St. Martin Press, Penguin Books, Vintage, Doubleday, Times Warner, Farrar Straus Giroux, Saatchi & Saatchi, Nickledeon, Humane Society of America, The Nature Conservancy, Helen Keller Foundation.