Like most cat shows, the International Cat Show in Vilnius, Lithuania is rife with opportunity for a feline photographer. Cat owners love to commemorate championship wins (or compensate for crushing losses) by having professional portraits taken of their pedigreed felines.
When photographer Andrius Burba set up his portrait studio in Vilnius, he set himself up for a few extra challenges. Like most artists, the status quo is never quite enough and other angles have to be explored. His decided to photograph the cats from below. As he explains on his Facebook page, which he calls, “Under-Cats”:
“I was fascinated by their cute little paws which were impossible to resist to look at. But the main idea which I wanted to express through these photos, is that cats feel embarrassed about this part of a body which people don’t get to see daily.”
Burba had the foresight to share a video of his efforts with the Under-Cats on the site, as well as the collaboration involved with getting the cats to “model” in just the right way. He spent the entire day with one feline subject after another; a stout British shorthair, a lively Abyssinian, or a Norwegian Forest Cat who insisted on collapsing into a flat furry rug.
Even though the shots are all from an unusual angle, the different breeds and their characteristics are unmistakable.
It takes a unique sort of determined personality to photograph cats. They are not the most willing subjects to begin with, but when you combine this recalcitrant nature with a noisy auditorium filled with bright lights, strangers, ear-splitting acoustics and other cats, well, it’s a miracle anything is accomplished.
Timing is key. Most cat photographers have to be able to wave a toy, click the shutter, plus be ready to grab the cat if it should bolt. In the midst of all this, he has to be aware if there is a single hair out of place on the cat, and perhaps jump in and fix that, too, between takes. If you need to drop a few pounds, go to a cat show and set up a photo studio. You won’t get to sit down for the entire weekend. (Just lay off the cheese curls — junk food is rampant at those places.)
Burba’s cat shoot was featured in Popular Photography, which explained how his setup took nearly seven hours of preparation. He spent the whole day posing, arranging, cajoling, petting and finally shooting each cat. Post-production took about four weeks.
The charm of ‘Under-Cats’ calls to mind Seth Casteel’s submerged, euphoric, eye-popping photos of dogs swimming underwater. His book, Underwater Dogs became a runaway New York Times Bestseller. Casteel’s images have now expanded into Underwater Puppies. According to Huffington Post, he ended up teaching 1500 puppies how to swim.
— JCRimell (@jc_rimell) January 29, 2016
Another jewel springing from the creative realm of pet photography is, ‘Why Cats Paint: A Theory of Feline Aesthetics’, by Heather Busch and Burton Silver. Not only is it filled with whimsical photos of the “artist” cats in action, but the passages explaining the art theory are hilarious.
“We shall never know the origin of the primal feline aesthetic gesture but it seems that wherever domestic cats are well looked after and have little need to define their territories, their marking behavior tends, in some rare instances, to become what Desmond Morris (writing about chimpanzees) calls a Self Rewarding Activity.”
Burba hasn’t said if he has plans for a book, but judging from the reception these photos are getting, it would likely be a huge success. However, that may not interest him. He may be like the artist cats, and find taking pictures to be a Self Rewarding Activity.
[Image via Nancy Bailey]