Popular Ossington bar showcases bond of trans community and their rescue dogs

Celebrated dog photographer Jack Jackson, in collaboration with May Brand, the owner of Sweaty Betty’s, extends a warm invitation to local businesses to join them in a meaningful project dedicated to supporting the local queer and trans community this Valentine’s Day.

“Rescued by Love,” formerly known as “Don’t You Want Me,” is a photography project co-founded by Toronto-based Jackson. Launched in 2019, the project celebrates the special bond between members of the LGBTQ+ community and their rescue dogs.

“I can’t explain the impacts that these rescue dogs have on the lives of anyone, really, but especially on the queer and trans community,” says Jackson. “And the same goes for the rescue dogs. Once they have a family, often these dogs really blossom and come out of their fears and insecurities.”

Photo: Jack Jackson

With sponsorship from Pet Valu in 2022, Jackson traveled across the country to capture stories from queer community members about their relationship with their rescue pets. The free photography sessions are intentionally designed to depict the hardships overcome by the individuals, often revealing heartfelt stories of abandonment similar to those of the rescue dogs.

“I want to get to know their story because it is a crucial part of the session,” he says. “These sessions can be really vulnerable and sometimes people touch on difficult subjects or difficult times in their lives that they’ve overcome. That vulnerability and that trust makes it really special.”

With the support of local businesses sponsoring individual sessions to “spread the cost,” Jackson is looking to expand the project. The goal is not only to provide participants with digital copies of their photography session, as he has been doing so far, but also to offer a more permanent art piece.

Photo: Jack Jackson

“We want to give them a piece of artwork that they can put on their wall and can look at every single day,” Jackson says. “On the bad days, they can look at it and think, ‘This is me. I’m doing OK, I’ve been through some stuff but I’m doing alright and I have my dog by my side.”

The sponsorships would also enable Jackson to hire more production assistants from the LGBTQ+ community, providing mentorship and sharing his knowledge. While the non-profit has previously relied on volunteers, the sponsorships would allow these individuals to be compensated for their valuable support.

Following the sponsored sessions, there will be a permanent exhibit of the photos at Ossington’s Sweaty Betty’s— one of the businesses that has already sponsored a session. Hot The inclusive dive bar will host a launch during Pride Month, and all sponsors will be invited to attend.

Photo: Jack Jackson

“Sweaty Betty’s has always been a space that welcomes everyone, both humans and their four-legged friends,” says owner of Sweaty Betty’s, May Brand. “This collaboration with Jack involves two of my biggest passions and allows up to amplify the voices of the 2SLGBTQ community through a collection of portraits and stories that celebrate the intersection of love, identity and the unconditional bond between rescue dogs and their owners.”

“We’d have the photograph, the person’s narrative and then a label that the session was sponsored by the business or person,” Jackson explains. “We’ll be bringing the whole community together with allies supporting the queer community — which is good timing for Valentine’s Day.”

Sponsorship opportunities come in differing and flexible options, each giving back to the participant, the non-profit and the community at large.  

“What we love most is bringing together not just queer people supporting other queer people, but bringing together everyone,” he says. “We just want to bring all these people together to celebrate these stories.”

Local businesses interested in sponsoring an individual photo session, click here to learn more.

2SLGBTQ individuals interested in a photo shoot, click here to reach Jack’s website.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO