Friday, September 2, 2011
Have you ever wondered what the world looks like to a cat? I have, and with the advent of lightweight “cat cams” that you can attach to your kitty’s collar, anyone can get a feline’s eye view of their home, their garden or the neighborhood. That’s really all Seattle residents Michael and Deirdre Cross had in mind when they put a digital camera on their outdoor cat Cooper one fateful day back in 2007. The camera was designed to take a photo every two minutes, and Michael and Deirdre were just hoping Cooper would show them where he goes all day and who he hangs out with – a “snapshot” of a typical outdoor cat’s day, if you will.
The photographs Cooper brought back did that, and more. So much more, in fact, that his work has exhibited in art galleries from Seattle to Chicago to London. “Cooper the Photographer Cat” has been featured on Animal Planet’s Must Love Cats, Today Show Australia, Good Morning America and in People Magazine. Two years ago, Cooper snagged Seattle Magazine’s “Best of 2009” and this February was honored in the magazine’s “Best of the Decade” category. Not one to rest on his paws, the talented celebricat has even published a new book titled Cat Cam: The World of Cooper the Photographer Cat. The book is available on Amazon.com for $19.95, and a portion of the proceeds is donated to the nonprofit shelter, PAWS: Progressive Animal Welfare Society.
I’ve viewed Cooper’s photos on his website, on Facebook and Flickr, and have to tell you I am truly impressed. Though skeptics might say he’s merely an accidental artist, I disagree. His photos seem perfectly and purposely framed, and many of them tell a story. Two of my favorites include one where a dog can be seen intently staring at Cooper from an apartment window, and another where the sidewalk shows a shadow of Cooper’s head.
Although there are some recurring characters in his photos, “Cooper is a pretty solitary fellow when he’s out with his camera,” said Michael. “He usually sticks to photographing the landscape, trees and plants. Every now and then we get a surprise cameo appearance from a human subject.” Cooper, who turns six in September, also has a YouTube channel and is now shooting some footage with his new Video Cat Cam.
Ever the gracious feline, Cooper recently took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for me. I really enjoyed getting to know this talented pussycat, and hope you do too!
I understand you typically wear your cat cam just once a week. How long do you wear it, and how many photos do you shoot every week?
“I'll shoot pictures for most of the day, and come home with anywhere from 100 to 500 photos, depending on how long the battery lasts.”
Of all the photos you’ve taken, which one is your favorite?
“My favorite photo I've taken has got to be ‘New Haircut.’ It still makes me laugh – the look on my friend's face nearly makes me cough up a hairball every time I see this photo.” (Editor’s note: this photo features a kitty lying under a car with an obvious expression of disapproval, most likely hiding and mad due to the “lion cut” she sports.)
What do you like to do when you’re not out photographing the world?
“I really enjoy napping. It's exhausting being an artist, and there's nothing better than a good snooze by the sunny window to really take the edge off.”
You have 75,000 Facebook fans and have been featured in many major newspapers and on TV. What’s the best thing about being a celebricat?
“I never expected to become famous for my photography. But it's kind of fun, and the coolest part is hearing from cat lovers and photography lovers from all over the world!”
I read that both of your hoomin parents are filmmakers. Do you think you inherited your gift for taking amazing pictures from them?
“Some people think I learned my camera skills from my humans, who are both filmmakers. But it's totally the other way around – I taught them everything they know!”
What kinds of photos will people find in your new book?
“Cat Cam: The World of Cooper the Photographer Cat is much more than a book; it is a one-of-a-kind photo experience. This book investigates the secret life of a cat. Through my eyes we explore places only cats go, witness interactions with neighborhood animals, and see the seasons change from a rare and vivid point of view. The book includes many never-before-seen photos, as well as commentary and tips from yours truly!”
Tell me something about you that people might not know.
“I love the work that PAWS does. PAWS is a champion for animals: rehabilitating injured and orphaned wildlife, sheltering and adopting homeless cats and dogs, and educating people to make a better world for animals and people. Five years ago my humans adopted me (not from PAWS, but as a stray). They feel it is important to take good care of our pets and be responsible human companions, and PAWS's vision recognizes the intrinsic value of animals. This is why I donate a portion of my proceeds to PAWS.”
You are such a handsome mancat. Do you have a girlfriend?
“Many humans want to know if I have a girlfriend. My response is... ladies, you know my number.”
What exciting things are on the horizon for you?
“I would love to host Saturday Night Live, but am still waiting to hear back on that.”
Read more articles by Julia Williams