Fashion has Helmut Newton, architecture has Julius Shulman, and cat photography has Walter Chandoha. In 1949, his encounter with a stray kitten blossomed into a career that elevated feline portraiture to an art form. This is a tribute not just to these beguiling creatures but also to a remarkable photographer who passed away this year at the age of 98; and whose compassion can be felt in each and every frame. On a winter’s night in 1949 in New York City, young marketing student and budding photographer Walter Chandoha spotted a stray kitten in the snow, bundled it into his coat, and brought it home. Little did he know he had just met the muse that would determine the course of his life. Chandoha turned his lens on his new feline friend—which he named Loco—and was so inspired by the results that he started photographing kittens from a local shelter. These images marked the start of an extraordinary career that would span seven decades.
Long before the Internet and #catsofinstagram, Chandoha was enrapturing the public with his fuzzy subjects. From advertisements to greetings cards, jigsaw puzzles to pet-food packaging, his images combined a genuine affection for the creatures, a strong work ethic, and flawless technique. Chandoha’s trademark glamorous lighting, which made each cat’s fur stand out in sharp relief, would define the visual vocabulary of animal portraiture for generations and inspire such masters as Andy Warhol, who took cues from Chandoha’s charming portraits in his illustrated cat book.Cats leaps into this genre-defining artist’s archives, featuring color studio and environmental portraits, black-and-white street photography, images from vintage cat shows, tender pictures that combine his children with cats and more. This is a fitting tribute not just to these beguiling creatures but also to a remarkable photographer who passed away this year at the age of 98; and whose compassion can be felt in each and every frame. The photographer Walter Chandoha (1920–2019) was a combat photographer in the Second World War, before a chance encounter with a cat led him on a path that would shape his professional career. His images have appeared on over 300 magazine covers and in thousands of advertisements, from posters and T-shirts to the giant 18x60 foot Kodak Colorama in Grand Central Terminal, New York City. The author Susan Michals is the founder of CatCon and Cat Art Show the two biggest cat-centric, pop culture events in the world. She is a former television producer and journalist whose work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, artnet News, The Observer, and Vanity Fair among others. The editor Reuel Golden is the former editor of the British Journal of Photography. His TASCHEN titles include Capitol Records, Mick Rock: The Rise of David Bowie, both London and New York Portrait of a City books, Andy Warhol. Polaroids, The Rolling Stones, Her Majesty, Football in the 1970s, the National Geographic editions, and The David Bailey SUMO.