Profiling Portraits: Feline Photography

Taking a portrait alongside your favorite feline is no easy task. Cats are notoriously (but delightfully) finicky about following directions, so getting one to sit still for a portrait can be a tall order. Despite that, our collections contain many examples of people posing with their cats – or at least attempting to do so!

Aviator John Moisant took his cat with him everywhere – including when he became the first pilot to fly with a passenger over the English Channel in 1910. Technically, he had two passengers – his mechanic and his feline friend, Mademoiselle Fifi, pictured below!

John B. Moisant. Photo, copyrighted 1911. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b16490

John B. Moisant. Photo, copyrighted 1911. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b16490

Photographer Arnold Genthe named all of his cats Buzzer, a reference to their deep purr, which he enjoyed. He had at least four Buzzers in his life! While I haven’t yet come across a photo of Genthe himself with Buzzer, the various incarnations posed with many of the famous subjects of Genthe, such as actress Daisy King, below. (This is likely a very relaxed Buzzer IV.)

King, Daisy, Miss, with Buzzer the cat, portrait photograph. Photo by Arnold Genthe, 1914 June. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/agc.7a13930

King, Daisy, Miss, with Buzzer the cat, portrait photograph. Photo by Arnold Genthe, 1914 June. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/agc.7a13930

Famous felines aside, we have many photos of a family cat with his or her owner, such as the ones clutched by the young girls pictured below:

Baby Beede with kitten. Western Slope Farms, Colorado. Photo by Arthur Rothstein, 1939 Oct. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b18750

Baby Beede with kitten. Western Slope Farms, Colorado. Photo by Arthur Rothstein, 1939 Oct. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b18750

Hume, C. Photo by C.M. Bell, between December 1903 and March 1905. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/bellcm.17841

Hume, C. Photo by C.M. Bell, between December 1903 and March 1905. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/bellcm.17841

The next two photos include show cats, so they are quite beautiful though not necessarily more cooperative!

Washington cat show opens at Wardman Park Hotel. [Edna B. Doughty and Louise Grogan with Persian cats.] Photo by National Photo Company, between 1920 and 1932. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c06978

Washington cat show opens at Wardman Park Hotel. [Edna B. Doughty and Louise Grogan with Persian cats.] Photo by National Photo Company, between 1920 and 1932. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c06978

Mrs. M.K. Metcalf, Cat Show, 2/1/27. Photo by National Photo Company, 1927 February 1. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.16699

Mrs. M.K. Metcalf, Cat Show, 2/1/27. Photo by National Photo Company, 1927 February 1. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.16699

And perhaps saving my favorites for last, enjoy a series of photographs of a Mrs. Emmons attempting to pose with her white cat, with varying levels of success. The photographs come from the collection of photographer C.M. Bell’s Washington, D.C., studio, so we have the successes as well as the “outtakes” of some portrait sessions. I included a fourth photo of just the cat, as perhaps Mrs. Emmons had reached her limit at that point!

Emmons, Mrs. S.F. Photo by C.M. Bell, between February 1894 and February 1901. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/bellcm.06679

Emmons, Mrs. S.F. Photo by C.M. Bell, between February 1894 and February 1901. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/bellcm.06679

Emmons cat. Photo by C. M. Bell, between February 1894 and February 1901. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/bellcm.06680

Emmons cat. Photo by C. M. Bell, between February 1894 and February 1901. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/bellcm.06680

Emmons cat [woman and cat] Photo by C.M. Bell, between February 1894 and February 1901. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/bellcm.06681

Emmons cat [woman and cat] Photo by C.M. Bell, between February 1894 and February 1901. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/bellcm.06681

Emmons [cat]. Photo by C. M. Bell, between February 1894 and February 1901. ttp://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/bellcm.06682

Emmons [cat]. Photo by C. M. Bell, between February 1894 and February 1901. ttp://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/bellcm.06682

Cat story, 1/11/21. Photo by National Photo Company, 1921 January 11. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.03341

Cat story, 1/11/21. Photo by National Photo Company, 1921 January 11. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.03341

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3 Comments

  1. jerry l biles
    December 6, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    thank you

  2. Athena
    December 7, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    Love these Kristi! Maybe goats will
    be next?

  3. Michael R. Olivieri
    December 11, 2019 at 10:37 am

    Great tips! Photography is an art so it must be learned properly. A good guide can teach art in a great way.

    Thanks a lot.

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