Cat(s) of the Month ~ November 2019
In December 1949, late on a late winter’s evening, Walter was trudging to his three-room apartment through the New York city snow, when he spotted a kitten huddled in an alley. He cradled the shivering feline, slipped him into his heavy army coat, and carried him home to Queens, with the one thought of giving the poor creature a decent meal and bed for the night. Later, he gave the kitten as a present to his wife Maria, who was pregnant with their first child at the time. Around 11 o’clock that night, the kitten started charging around each room in the apartment like a demon possessed, astonishing Walter and Maria. “That cat is loco!” Maria exclaimed…. and the name stuck!
When Walter began taking pictures of his new adopted pet, he was so inspired by the results that he started photographing more kittens at a local animal shelter. So began an extraordinary career that would span seven decades.
The photo above is one of Chandoha’s most celebrated photos. The story goes that at one time, quite a few cats called in at the Chandoha’s farm home. Because he often fed them, these cats developed the habit of following Chandoha (No surprise there!). One day, while walking down the road with his camera, a gang of cats began tailing him. He dropped on his stomach in the road and took an iconic image of five determined cats ambling toward the camera.
Additional subjects for which Walter is known are fruits, vegetables, flowers, and New York City street scenes. Over his long career, his archive grew to more than 225,000 photographs including approximately 90,000 photographs of cats.
RIP Walter George Chandoha
(November 30, 1920 – January 11, 2019)
A book ‘Walter Chandoha. Cats. Photographs 1942–2018’ is published by Taschen, if you can afford it, that is!