Nashville photographer Amiee Stubbs shoots a lot of concerts — and a lot of rescue animals; more on that in a minute — but she wasn’t at the April 14 Prince show in Atlanta on assignment.
Amiee was there as a fan — a big one, who’d shelled out $350 for a third row center ticket to the show.
She wasn’t going to take any pictures. Amiee didn’t have her professional gear on hand, and, anyway, Prince doesn’t allow attendees to snap pics — a policy Amiee, who’s seen Prince live seven times, appreciates, and generally abides.
But toward the end of the concert, Amiee couldn’t resist getting up close to the stage, and taking a quick photo on her iPhone. She tried to be discreet about it; she assumed the photo would be just for her, to remind her what an amazing, sexy, impressive, moving performance she’d gotten to witness. She figured she’d get to see him perform many, many more times.
Amiee shared the photo, after the terrible news of Prince’s death, less than a week later.
By now you’ve probably seen it on NBC and CNN, and who knows how many other of the dozens of publications that have licensed the photo (or have used it without permission).
You may have read this wonderful interview in the Los Angeles Times, wherein Amiee discussed the picture, and how she hopes it gives his devastated fans the feeling that they were there themselves, in the presence of this miracle of a musician.
“I’m just so glad I took that photo I shouldn’t have taken,” she told the paper.
What you might not know is that Amiee’s other passion, along with music, is animal rescue. And she’s an incredibly accomplished photographer in that realm, as well.
“I can do dogs during the day, and rock and roll all night,” she says.
You probably couldn’t have planned this career.
Amiee spent years in the corporate world — blowing off steam with a night gig as a professional wrestler. (Her husband, Dan, is also a former pro wrestler. Obviously, they are our heroes.)
Amiee had long taken pictures as an amateur. While going back to college in the late 2000-oughts, she enrolled in a summer photography class as a lark.
By the end of that class, she’d decided to major in photography. (To which we say: thank goodness.)
Around the time for choosing a semester-long photo project, Amiee and her husband brought home a foster dog named Buster — a deaf Pittie who earned his name by busting up their garage with his enthusiastic playing.
Amiee decided to focus her project on dogs, and dog rescue — to such an extent that her professor suggested that perhaps one week she could try turning in photos with no dogs in them, only people.
She declined — and, she says, her professor later “sent a nice apology.”
Over time, Amiee began snapping adoption photos for local rescue groups, trying to help more dogs get into homes. She also got a dream gig — albeit, an unpaid one: taking photos of the animals at the Nashville Zoo.
In 2012, a veterinarian at the zoo told Amiee about volunteering with Animal Rescue Corps, a group that rescues animals from abuse, neglect, cruelty, natural disasters, and other unlivable situations.
Rescue is really, literally what they do — working with law enforcement, ARC goes into the most horrific situations, helps collect evidence, and gets the sick, injured, and desperately at-risk animals out of danger and into safety.
The vet invited Amiee to come along and document the next rescue operation. Amiee said yes.
That was 28 missions ago.
At a typical rescue mission — to the extent there is such a thing — Amiee is among the first volunteers on the scene.
She walks through puppy mills where matted, unwell, over-bred dogs are stuffed into feces-filled cages. She is there to witness starving dogs, left chained up or caged, when their owners have skipped town.
Every kind of horror inflicted on dogs, Amiee is there to see — to photograph.
“I’m crying. I’m shooting. I’m angry,” she says.
The way Amiee gets through it, is by reminding herself that when she is done with her work, the dogs will be unchained, and uncaged. They will be groomed, and given love, and veterinary care.
Her being there to see them, means that these animals are on the way to being ok. She knows their tails will wag, as they are walked out.
And here’s where concert photography meets animal rescue.
Amiee hopes that her photo of Prince helps fans who weren’t at the concert, feel like they were there.
That’s what she’s aiming for with her rescue pictures, as well.
To make you feel like you were there. In the puppy mill. At the hoarder’s house.
Wherever these animals were unlucky enough to be kept, until they were lucky enough to be found, and freed.
Maybe her photos will then draw a few more people into animal rescue, and adoption, she hopes. Perhaps someone who’d been thinking of buying a dog, or a rabbit, will decide to adopt instead.
“I want these photos to move people,” she says.
Just to bring it all back to Prince: Like all of us, after the musician’s shocking death, Amiee began reexamining Prince’s life, and work.
She found herself moved anew by the song Animal Kingdom — specifically a line Prince, who was a vegan, wrote about “not eating his brothers and sisters in the sea,” Amiee says.
Here’s how it goes:
No member of the animal kingdom nurses past maturity
No member of the animal kingdom ever did a thing to me
It’s why I don’t eat red meat or white fish
Don’t give me no blue cheese
We’re all members of the animal kingdom
Leave your brothers and sisters in the sea
Amiee stopped eating meat other than fish in 2012, after working with ARC for a few months. Since Prince died, Amiee has now given up fish, as well.
“I don’t want to eat it anymore,” she says.
She was also, understandably, curious if Prince had pets. She could see him with a couple of cats, maybe — but found no great evidence to suggest the presence of actual felines or other critters at Paisley Park.
That’s ok. He did enough through his lyrics and activism. And anyway, “they probably would have gotten hair on his awesome clothes,” Amiee says.