Madison Taylor: Calendar Girl
Sometimes, it's okay to be the guinea pig, especially when you are one that is beloved and set to be the star of your own calendar. Madison Taylor of Killingworth has created a calendar starring her pet guinea pig, Ron, who dutifully sat for all 12 months of the project, which was designed to raise funds for the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter.
Madison is a sixth grader who says she developed a passion for photography recently and was looking for a way to further her skills and help the community. Inspired by her father, with help from mom and a perfect model in her pet guinea pig, Ron, Madison set to work.
“In fourth grade, I just started taking pictures of stuff, and I really started to like it. My dad is a graphic designer, so I kind of wanted to be like him because I know that photography kind of goes into graphic designing,” says Madison. “My dad’s dad was a photographer, so I kind of got that from my dad’s side.”
Madison says she has a professional digital camera that helps her get the right shot and style for her projects, including outdoor and nature photos.
“I have my own camera for the guinea pig calendar; that is what I used,” says Madison. “I have a digital camera but nothing real fancy and also use my phone camera. I like to take pictures of sunsets, and that’s the kind of photographer I want to be. We live in the woods, so we kind of get a great view of sunsets, and they are really good where we have our house. Fall sunsets are always pretty. I also like taking pictures of animals, like my dogs. I like my two dogs and take a lot of pictures of them, too. I really love photography most of all.”
Madison says the project idea was ultimately something that just grew out of her love for her pets, Ron and Harry, and her passion for snapping photos.
“I’ve been wanting to do a calendar for a while. We do a photo album every year with our family pictures, but I have been wanting to do something a little different with animals. I just really wanted to take pictures of my guinea pigs, Harry and Ron, and right away, I knew I wanted to do a calendar with them. So, I just started doing it.”
Madison says her dad helped with some of the design aspects, as that is his profession, but Madison co-designed and approved all of the images for the project. Madison’s mom, Melissa, says Madison had a knack for getting her pets, especially Ron, to pose with objects and scenes that were often quite cute and funny, which also helped energize the project initially.
“I took the pictures with some props I had that would go with each season. Ron is in every picture of the calendar, and he was a perfect model for pictures. He always just stands there and looks at the camera. I would say, ‘He is just the perfect model; you could be a superstar!’."
Madison says her other guinea pig friend, Harry, was a bit shier and didn’t take to posing and life in front of the camera so much, but Ron was a true professional from the beginning.
“Only Ron made the calendar. Harry was kind of hard because he would run away from me. So, I just told Ron, ‘Ron, c’mon, you’re going to be in some pictures,’" laughs Madison.
According to Madison, she was first introduced to these pets by a friend and fell in love with their cuddly disposition. However, it took some determined convincing from Madison to get her parents to agree to get guinea pigs as pets.
“One of my friends had guinea pics, and I just looked at them and thought that they are just the cutest animals,” says Madison. “But I kind of had to do a research paper for my mom and dad to get them on my side about getting pet guinea pigs. I really researched them to get my point.”
Sadly, Ron passed before the calendars were ready, but Madison is philosophical about it all. Guinea pigs have rather short life spans, only about five years or so, and Madison says she knew that fact when adopting her furry friends, but she was still disappointed Ron didn’t see his final accomplishment.
“They were older when we adopted them, so I knew it could happen. It was actually great timing for the calendar because they passed away right after I finished taking pictures. It was kind of sad, but I’m glad we got to finish it. I am just really happy with the way it came out. I love the Christmas shot most of all. We used actual props and put in the backdrop with my dad, and he put them in. I just really liked how it all ended up.”
As to whether she’ll get another guinea pig, Madison responds, “I think I’m going to get a fish, just regular old fish,” says Madison.
Madison put together a plan for each month, shot all the photos, and put the calendar together, as well as developing her business plan. Madison says she knew she wanted to donate some proceeds to the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter in Branford but had to factor in the cost of printing and other expenses.
“It was really tough because we were figuring out all of the things we needed to do, and I really didn’t know about all of that. My mom kind of explained it to me about how we should donate, and I really didn’t understand what a business plan even was at first; it was kind of hard to figure it all out,” says Madison. “But I am really happy with the way it came out, and it feels good to help animal shelters. They can use the money to get supplies or to help them out with whatever they need to buy.”
Madison says despite her passion for her pets and photography, she really wanted to create a project that would benefit her community in some way. According to Madison, donating the proceeds to the Cosgrove Shelter was a no-brainer for her.
“I was going to have my birthday at the shelter, but we didn’t get to because of COVID. I just love going to animal shelters, and that one is the one I love most. I just really wanted to help them out. I just love their shelter over there,” says Madison. “Helping them is really why I wanted to do this.”
Anyone interested in a calendar can find more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The family is willing to deliver locally and will arrange a transfer of a calendar otherwise. The calendars are $20 each, with $5 of every purchase going directly to the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter in Branford.
For more info and to donate directly, visit the Cosgrove Shelter’s site at www.branford-ct.gov/departments/animal-shelter.