A photographic exploration of rescue dogs and their Q families is coming to Halifax, with an accompanying photo shoot for locals. In early May, Wayves interviewed Jack Jackson, co-founder, The Don’t You Want Me Project. The project has two components: collecting photos of Q folk with their rescue dogs, and an exhibit of photos. Both are happening in Spryfield next week.
Jack, please tell us a bit about yourself. Where were you born, where did you grow up, what schools did you go to, what’s your… “vocation” - that is, what’s the thing you’re called to?
I was born in the UK, but we moved to the Channel Islands when I was 15. It’s a stunningly beautiful place, but it’s very small and like any small place, things can sometimes get a bit difficult if you don’t fit in. I didn’t fit in. I finally got the courage to leave when I was 37. I knew I wanted to work in a creative capacity that would hold real meaning. Since relocating to Toronto I’ve founded the Don’t You Want Me project and my dog photography business, and I can’t get enough of either.
What is this project, what is Don't You Want Me?
Don't You Want Me is a social impact photography project combining visual arts and storytelling to celebrate the lives of queer and trans people and their rescue dogs.
Is this an all-Canadian project?
Thanks to the support of Pet Valu, the project is in the middle of a cross-Canada tour. We’ve already visited Pet Valu stores in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Bradford, and have upcoming stops in Calgary, St. Catharines, and Spryfield. My project partner also does sessions between the UK and the US where she lives. We plan to travel further with the Project - it was always intended to be global.
Are you involved with the adoptions? Where do the dogs come from?
We created a pilot program whereby we matched a rescue dog with an 2SLGBTQ+ person in need. I would like to expand this program if we can obtain sufficient funding. 2SLGBTQ+ people can end up in really terrible circumstances because of discrimination, and sometimes medication isn’t really going to shift that - having the love and support of a dog does though. The emergency support fund relies entirely on donations and community support to operate. Aurora has been our first recipient of support from the fund - check out her journey here. We like to work towards finding a more holistic approach to helping someone, not just providing a band-aid.
What are you hoping will come out of your project?
The Project was always meant to be a celebration. To show how beautiful queer and trans people are. To show, through their own words, what challenges people might face because of their identity or sexuality, how they’ve overcome them, how they’ve had to be better, fight harder, work harder - these people are an inspiration and ultimately, I believe, will bring sweeping societal changes, particularly around gender inequity. I often joke that people ask my opinion these days, people don’t tell me to smile, I get paid more now, I can be fat now, I can be average now. It’s not really a joke though.
Why are you focusing on the 2SLGBTQ+ community?
I like to work with people with whom I have some kind of shared experience and connection. My inspiration, when I’m working into the early hours is the appalling statistics, particularly around trans and marginalized people’s lives.
What do you think is special about the relationship between companion animals and the Q community?
Dogs are the best things that ever existed. I think in terms of the Project what we see is that when people have access to the same things as anyone else who is doing well at life - such as family, someone to care for, someone who cares, routine, someone by their side, and a reason to have fun - they tend to do well too. Dogs give people all of those things.
When people come to the Halifax event, what will they see?
The exhibit includes six towers of compelling images and personal narratives of 2SLGBTQ+ people and the impact their rescue dogs have had on them.
When is the Halifax event? Will there be a reception?
The exhibit will be on display at Pet Valu Spryfield (16 Dentith Rd., Unit 4) from May 10-20. I will be onsite at the store from 12-4 pm on Saturday May 14. I encourage everyone (and their pets!) to come visit the exhibit, read the stories and feel inspired. Come on May 14 and meet me. The goal of the tour was to bring the project to Canadians outside of Toronto. I’m so thrilled to be meeting people from coast to coast, making connections and sharing experiences.
I’m going to be in Halifax from May 14-18, capturing the stories of people from the 2SLGBTQ+ community who have a rescue dog and a story of transformation. Individuals from the community who would like to participate can apply to take part . The cut off for applications is May 7.