From the People's Daily app.
And this is Story in the Story.
According to a market research report, at the start of 2019, China’s pet sector was valued at $2.5 billion dollars.
"China's pet care industry exploded around 2003, and has been on the rise ever since," said Cen Bingwen, secretary-general of the Dongguan Pet Industry Association.
Owning one or multiple pets has become increasingly popular in China, yet only 15 percent of those living in first-tier cities have a pet.
For the empty-nest elderly or urban bachelors, pets are often the only family they have.
Businesses and services aimed at domesticated animals include breeding services, beauty care, matchmaking, acupuncture, and professional photography.
Meanwhile, animal experts have noted the lack of regulations on commercial activities which could be harmful to pets, both physically and mentally, and have urged owners to take into consideration a pet’s well-being before engaging in selfish activities.
Today’s Story in the Story looks at pet photography, a niche sector within China’s soaring domesticated animal market.
A before-and-after makeover photo of a stray dog. (Photo: China Daily)
In the past eight years, Beijing photographer Zhang Tianhang has photographed over 10,000 stray pets.
Working with animal shelters, Zhang is determined to raise awareness on abandoned pets and help find them new homes.
"You won't believe these are photos of the same dog," Zhang said, pointing at before and after photos of a stray dog who was given a makeover. "The animals feel so much happier if someone cares for them,” he explained.
The dog in the photo was later adopted by Chinese actress Gao Yuanyuan, a move that inspired Zhang to believe in his cause even more.
"Every dog is adorable. We want people to see that and give them a home," he said. "You just need to connect with the animals, let them trust you."
Many of Zhang's "models" have been adopted by locals, and some even start a new life overseas.
Zhang hopes more people will consider adoption instead of buying a new pet. "It's a very big responsibility, usually over 10 years," he said.
In 2011, Zhang opened a photography studio in Beijing instead of trying to secure a steady job.
"It takes a long time for people to understand this profession. Now with online promotion, I have received more orders," he said. "The clients now have to wait until next year for an appointment."
A photo shoot can cost upwards of $500 dollars , said Zheng Qingdong, a pet photographer who travels across the country wherever he is needed.
The main difficulty with photographing pets is their uncontrollable behavior, Zheng explained.
To capture a pet’s personality, photographers must interact with the animals before they start snapping photos.
Professional photo studios dedicated entirely to pets have emerged as domestic animal lovers enjoy documenting their pets’ growth.
A photographer takes photos of a bichon frise carried by her partner. (Photo: China Daily)
"Eight years ago, I could find few professional pet photographers in Wuchang," Central China's Hubei Province, said one dog owner.
"Pet photography has grown, and short films and videos are used to supplement still photos," said Li Yang, of LOVE CAT, an official operating agency
28-year-old animal photographer He Shuopeng, from Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, claims he can "speak" with the pets he photographs.
"I'm able to combine an eye for photographic aesthetics with this extremely unique method of communication," He said, and added, “animals have really changed my life, as I hope I've changed theirs."
At the age of 18, He was expelled from Nanjing University of Arts for general misbehavior and poor studies. The next nine years saw him progress through a series of down-and-out occupations, including delivery man, cook and salesclerk.
The secret of his current success is all the tactics he's employed to maintain communication with his often-fickle subjects.
"For dogs, I whistle in changing rhythms; dogs often feel curious and somehow 'know' that they are being shot right then," he said. "But cats, like women, follow their hearts - you have to amuse them for them to accept you."
He said the most meaningful moment in his career occurred when a blind couple hired him to photograph their dog.
He explained that it didn’t matter they couldn’t see the photos. It just meant a lot to them to have their dog’s image always close to them.
"They blew up a large 15-inch picture of the dog for their bedroom and carry photos of him everywhere they go. It's really moving,” He said.
(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe, and Chelle Wenqian Zeng. Music by: bensound.com. Text from China Daily, Global Times.)