Walter Chandoha: The Cat Whisperer

Photography:
© Walter Chandoha from Walter Chandoha: The Cat Photographer (Aperture, 2015)

Long before Instagram and Grumpy Cat, there was Loko, the kitten that started it all for Walter Chandoha, who has been photographing cats for over 70 years with his images appearing in hundreds of magazines including National Geographic and New York Times. We spoke to Walter about his passion for all things furry and got some tips on getting the perfect kitty picture.

Do you have a cat picture that’s particularly memorable to you?
A picture of the five ginger kittens. Normally, when we make group pictures of cats we mostly look for all of the cats sitting up straight and looking front and centre, preferably into the lens. However, kittens are unpredictable: they interact with each other, yawn, meow or fall asleep. Or some are simply bored or annoyed and it shows in the cats’ expression. In this picture each kitten is doing something different and when combined with the actions of his siblings gives us a one in a million photograph.
Do you have a favourite cat?
Loco, the kitten I found in the snow when coming home from classes at NYU one winter evening. Maybe it was subconscious gratitude on his part or maybe it was because he was my first adventure into cat photography and I spent more time taking pictures of him than of my other cats. And because I spent a lot of time with him I got to know his likes and dislikes, his preferences and his habits. And I think he got to know me and my family somewhat better. This familiarity between Loco and me resulted in many outstanding photographs.
Why do you think cats rule the internet nowadays?
Cats are such appealing pets who love their owners as much as they are loved, the photographs of their cats are a means of showing others the love of their life.
Do you own a cat?
I don’t currently have one in residence, my latest cat of the past ten years was Mitzi, who died several months ago. I‘m currently looking for one in shelters and when I find one  who will tolerate me we’ll have a new family member.
You also shot other animals, are cats your favourites and if so, why?
I have taken photos of a wide gamut of animals ranging from tiny insects to birds, to the huge elephants that roam free in Kenya and Tanzania. Cats are my favourite animal subject because of their unlimited range of attitude, posture, expression and coloration.They’re number one as the most favoured pet because of their subtle way of showing affection toward their human companions. Their warmth, their cleanliness, their silence, their various meows, their purring, their soft touch – all of these make cats the much loved and appreciated pets and companions they are.
Why do you think cats rule the internet nowadays?
Cats are such appealing pets who love their owners as much as they are loved, the photographs of their cats are a means of showing others the love of their life.
Do you own a cat?
I don’t currently have one in residence, my latest cat of the past ten years was Mitzi, who died several months ago. I‘m currently looking for one in shelters and when I find one  who will tolerate me we’ll have a new family member.
You also shot other animals, are cats your favourites and if so, why?
I have taken photos of a wide gamut of animals ranging from tiny insects to birds, to the huge elephants that roam free in Kenya and Tanzania. Cats are my favourite animal subject because of their unlimited range of attitude, posture, expression and coloration.They’re number one as the most favoured pet because of their subtle way of showing affection toward their human companions. Their warmth, their cleanliness, their silence, their various meows, their purring, their soft touch – all of these make cats the much loved and appreciated pets and companions they are.

The book Walter Chandoha: The Cat Photographer is out now published by Aperture Foundation.