Behind the lens with Illona Haus

May 1, 2019

She is one of Canada's most talented animal photographers. Over the past 12 years, Illona Haus has photographed all sorts of animals, more than 1,500 of them.

Whether it's in the woods, at the beach or in her studio in Kitchener, Ontario, Illona's portraits creatively capture her subjects for posterity's sake.

From her fine arts training, Illona is able to infuse her artwork with that extra dimension which sets it apart from “greeting card"photography; she beautifully conveys the unique character and unconditional love of our four-legged friends.

On the day of our interview, Illona's voice is strained. “It's Mowat, my new cat."Incredible, but true: Illona is allergic to her Devon Rex... and most of her subjects. “I had the worst asthma attack with Mirabelle, my Cornish Rex. But I've got used to her now. When I was a horse trainer I had the same problems."But, she can't imagine her life without animals.

It was the death of one of her dogs that prompted Illona to become an animal photographer. “I had virtually no pictures of him and I promised myself that I would never let that happen again”. She began capturing the lives animals on camera and built up a clientele. Without thinking twice, a new business was born.

Helping strays
Two years ago, both of Illona's dogs died. She had rescued Merrick from a puppy mill and, the same week, had adopted Matea from the SPCA in Barrie. “It was an incredible shock when they died. I'm only now beginning to move on,"says the artist. She currently shares her life with two cats and her dog, Matlin, who comes from a shelter in Texas.

For years, Illona took the photos for her local shelter's calendar. “I still photograph strays. Three-legged animals and the ones missing an eye have a special place in my heart.”

Some photo shoots are more difficult than others. “Sometimes I get emergency calls from people who want to have a last set of photos before they have to put their pet down. I always find the time for these shoots."and focus on being calm. I know how important these photographs are."It can be heartbreaking, especially when the animal Illona's photographing reminds her of one of her own pets. And, when the pet owner comes to pick up the photos, “I get out the box of Kleenex, take them in my arms and tell them how I feel their pain. I've been through it so many times.”

To learn more :

Cover photo: Marley, for the ‘'Dogs We've Loved'' project.
Photo credit: Tanya Wright/Scruffy Dog Photography.

Photo 1: A brown poodle running.
Photo 2: A jack russell in the middle of the forest.
Photo 3 : A border collie cross, for the ‘'Blow'' project.
Photo 4 : Ilona and her menagerie.
Photos credit : Scruffy Dog Photography


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