Once the executive officer in research development at Curtin University, she is now a professional pet photographer.
Last October, her department undergoing a restructure meant her job was made redundant but rather than panic, she took the opportunity to think about what she really wanted in life.
She was already a self-confessed pet tragic, with six dogs, two cats and a Stimson’s python called Flowers.
She also ran a small boarding service, specialising in a ‘home away from home’ service treating guest dogs as part of the family. The service included taking pictures of the dogs and posting them on social media for owners to see.
Once she had done this for a while, using an automatic camera, Pilgrim-Byrne was swamped with requests from owners wanting to buy the photos. She gave them away freely but as requests kept rolling in, decided to attain a professional standard.
She has now studied with Perth pet photographer Alex Cearns of Houndstooth Studio, known for books Joy and Mother Knows Best, and Queensland pet photographer Charlotte Reeves.
She was accepted as an emerging member of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography, a process that required her to submit a portfolio for assessment by a panel of three judges, who all had to score the work above 75 per cent.
They not only awarded the emerging membership but in a vote of confidence, waived the requirement she undergo another test for full membership after clocking two years of professional work.
In the meantime, she has a full schedule of private and commercial clients, photographing dogs and cats, horses and livestock, owners and pets and children and pets.
‘I love to bring out the personality of the animal, and the relationships between animals and owners,’ she said.
‘I like lying on the ground, with all these dogs running around me interacting with each other and feeding that through the lens.’
Pilgrim-Byrne is also working on the Loved Project, documenting the stories of elderly and disabled dogs, and volunteers taking photos of rescue animals to find them new homes.
‘I spend most of my time smelling like wet dog, and I don’t have any nice clothes or shoes any more. But I’m the happiest I have ever been,’ she said.