Uncommon Portrait Photographer Tina Ravitz ’81
By Rebecca Barns
After practicing with a law firm, serving as chief counsel to Newsweek, and holding other jobs in new media, Tina Ravitz has turned to a new line of work that combines her skill as a photographer and her love of animals. Animate Photography is a portrait studio in New York City that specializes in dogs, cats, other domestic animals along with their human companions.
Tina was always drawn to photography. She started out as a young shutterbug with the classic equipment: a Brownie box camera, a Kodak Instamatic, then, in the ’60s, a Polaroid Land Camera. By 13 she had a dark room and set out to capture just about everything that caught her eye. When her uncle loaned her his fine Zeiss-Ikon camera, that did it—photography became a passion.
When she volunteered to put her law class newsletter together three years ago, Tina was struck by how many people mentioned their pets and how important their bonds with them seem to be. That was the spark she needed to open a photo studio in her Manhattan apartment.
“So much of law depends on the left side of the brain,” she says. “I always wanted to explore the creative right side of my brain.” Her best work demands a combination of patience, flexibility, and uncommon photographic skill. Before a shoot begins, her subjects have to get to know her a bit, and vice versa. The pet’s “person” (legally, pets are property, but Tina tries to avoid the term “owner” because it doesn’t convey the family connection) is there with familiar treats and toys, and can help Tina get the kind of photograph they’re both after.
Tina thoroughly enjoys being around animals. “They are so in the present when you’re with them,” she notes. “The past doesn’t matter, or the future, just the here and now.” Her delight in that quality makes it easier to be flexible if a dog balks at her strobe lights and she needs to cart everything outside to Central Park.
Her own beloved cat, Sasha, a white cat with smoky blue eyes, was the subject of many of Tina’s photographs. People always commented on how youthful Sasha seemed for her age, so at her sweet 16 birthday celebration guests received Sasha’s 16 secrets of long life as party favors. Sasha’s tips were such a hit that a book illustrated with Tina’s photographs will soon be published.
Meanwhile, word of Tina’s skill in photographing people has been growing. A recent client needed a portrait of herself for her business, warning Tina in advance that it was going to be difficult if not impossible to make her look good. When Tina showed her the results of the shot, the woman said it was like “going out to buy potholders and coming back with a diamond necklace.” Check out Tina’s Web site at www.animatephotography.com