We can’t quite make up our minds whether this is a bit creepy or just beautiful… what do you think?
Back in the day, when cat’s still knew how to spell, American photographer Harry Whittier Frees (1879–1953) dressed them up in silly costumes and made them pose as humans. Similar to the Brighton cats, the result was a vintage version of the LOLCat phenomenon. His mother assisted him in designing and sewing special outfits for the cats to hold them in position while he would patiently wait for the shot he had in mind.
These unusual photographs of real animals were made possible only by patient, unfailing kindness on the part of the photographer at all times.
Speed is essential in securing these pictures, but very often it is impossible to be quick enough. Young animals cannot hold a pose any better than human babies, and the situation is complicated when they are called on to be precocious in situations naturally foreign to them.
Frees’s career as a photographer of cats and other animals in fancy dress began in 1906, when a party hat was passed around the table accidentally landed on a cat’s head. He took a photo and a career was born. He sold some of his early shots to a postcard printer, who turned out to be keen on more. With time and practice, his sets became more elaborate and most often included various props. His photos were continued to be featured on postcards and also appeared in calendars, books, advertisments, and magazines.
Check out our selection here:
Soldier’s goodbye & Bobbie the cat, Sydney, between 1939-1945. Photographed by Sam Hood (1872-1953).
Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1862)
Utagawa Kuniyoshi was one of the last great masters of the ukiyo-e style in painting and woodblock printing. Kuniyoshi’s subjects included landscape, women, kabuki actors, mythical animals and… wait for it… CATS!
Enjoy some examples of his work here:
John Reinhard Weguelin (1849–1927) was an English artist who specialised in figurative paintings with opulent backgrounds, typically landscapes or garden scenes. Drawing on Greek and Roman imagery and mythology, Weguelin’s work can be considered classicist (early works) as well as neo-classicist (later works). His style was flexible, often reflecting a free adaptation of the pagan spirit of classical art instead of adhering to a strictly historical interpretation.
In The Obsequies of an Egyptian Cat (1886),a priestess kneels before an altar upon which is placed the mummy of a cat (yup, there it is!). She is burning incense, and has presented offerings of flowers and food and milk to the cat’s spirit. On the wall behind the priestess is an Egyptian fresco, and a statue of the goddess Bastet guards the entrance to the temple. In the Background, stairs lead up to a doorway, opening the view to the sky.
If you are on top of your Egyptian mythology, you will have noticed that this actually leaves us with a second answer to the title question! Bastet (alternatively Bast or Baast) is the second cat in the picture. The feline goddess of ancient Egypt was the protector and defender of the pharaoh as well as the main male deity Ra. When domesticated cats were popularly kept as pets (first millennium BC), Bastet began to be represented as a woman with the head of a cat.
In the 1870s, British photographer Harry Pointer came to fame for a series of postcard photographs featuring his pet cats. Initially, he photographed cats sleeping or resting in unusual places, but he soon began experimenting with deliberately placing cats in humorous poses to create more appealing pictures, for example in a mixing bowl or on an old boot. Pointer’s next step was to arrange his cats in unusual poses that mimicked human activities – roller-skating cats or a cat taking a picture with a camera. Pointer realised that adding written captions to his cat photographs would make for amusing situational postcards for all sorts of occasions (in the 1870ies postcards were very popular to send quick notes and greetings to family and friends). The series “The Brighton Cats”, named after the home of Harry Pointer’s photo studio, held around two hundered such captioned cat pictures. The tradition he started on postcards has survived the digital revolution in form of LOLCats. No doubt the language and what sort of content we find amusing have changed over the centuries, but the basic principle of adding words to cat images to create a funnier whole has remained the same! Continue reading for a selection of the Brighton Cats (aka vintage LOLCats)!
Flotsam and Catsam is rather fond of all things vintage and cat related historical tidbits. Let’s take a step back in time and honour the man and the machine that brought us the very first cat video ever! Continue reading to find out more about Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope and, of course, to view the first cat video produced for it!
Let me first introduce this posts protagonist, photographer Arnold Genthe’s studio cat Buzzer in solo (well almost):
All photos displayed below were taken between 1906 and 1942 by Arnold Genthe (1869 – 1942) and downloaded from the Library of Congress prints and photographs archive. Said archive holds dozens of portraits of women posing with a, if I may say so, rather grumpy looking Buzzer.
If he doesn’t look too pleased posing alone, he seems to barely tolerate the series of fine ladies who disturb his days.Public Domain Images