This is definitely one from the archives! It’s probably taken in 1983, when I first got my camera and began photographing with black and white film. Kublai, the kitty who rescued me in college and truly began my life as an animal artist, was only about two years old. It’s hard to imagine that many years ago! And imagine me with my first camera…
I’ve always like the photo above, for Kublai, of course; I have so few photos of him because he was usually hanging on me somewhere and I rarely had the chance to photograph him. I can only remember his grace and presence, but that I do remember, and very well.
I was a new photographer then, had only had my first camera a few months and basically knew nothing about it, but this is how I learn. And as Kublai led me to the study of himself and thereby other cats as art subjects, so he led me down the path of cat photographer and I learned by doing, arriving at today’s creative efforts, and heading for tomorrow’s.
So in addition to simply him, I also appreciated his shape on the windowsill, that easily recognizable graphic outline of a cat shape that black cats often give us, and also the specifics of Kublai’s personality, the tall hips and long hind legs, waving tail, round face and bold bearing. I also photographed for the light, bright, airy feeling, of this spacious room in an apartment in a huge Victorian house, and specifics of the scene—the waterfall of the starched and ironed (by me) cotton batiste curtain across the window and falling on the sill diffusing the light, the big leafy wandering jew and bit of the asparagus fern I’d had for years which are almost as much of a subject as Kublai, and even the fact that it has an antique appearance though it’s not old, just black and white but developed in a color machine.
I am sometimes amazed at the things I produced years ago when I was simply experimenting with things, as with this. Most of the other photos on the roll were blurs, too dark, or simply of questionable interest, then there is this.
Someday I may do the detailed pencil sketch I’ve always intended…for almost 40 years.
It’s also a dedication to a cat who changed my life. Here he was about two, and now he’s been gone over 25 years, but the memories of some moments still feel fresh.
Vintage Photos From Other Years
Fawn, Mid-bath, 1989
It’s too bad this photo is (more than) a little grainy or you’d see all the more clearly the annoyed torbie expression on Fawn’s face as she pauses in washing her belly to question my abridgment of her privacy.
That is the ubiquitous yellow gingham bedspread that’s in the portrait “Waiting for Mom”, just later that year when Fawn was a real grown-up. She was so sassy and self-possessed that I did follow her around for the interesting things she did and legendary facial expressions. She had the closest to tortitude of any tortie-type cat I ever lived with, and her ‘tude was all talk. She probably rolled around on the bed for a few minutes after her bath, talking to herself.
The room was always bright, and the sun coming in the windows backlit Fawn and other things, and the shadows are very deep and saturated, causing the graininess. But that’s why the cats all loved that room and I had so many photos of them on the bed from when we lived there.
Because these older photos are also time capsules of the moment, this in the house I rented before I moved here, in the last months I lived there, it’s fun to study what’s there. The photo was taken in November 1989, and I bought this house in October 1990. I still sleep in that bed, though the bedspread is long gone. But the cat pillow is there, the white cat with the turquoise bow on the brown gingham background that worked so well with my bedroom. You may have seen that in recent-day photos as it was on my bed for a while in older photos, and on the rocker in my bedroom and other rooms, then most recently on my desk chair here in my office. When I washed it last autumn it split open across the front and all the stuffing filled the washer. I haven’t stitched it up yet, but I will now that I’ve reorganized my sewing area.
Behind that is the vintage 1920s waterfall-style dresser, and on that, in the back, is my small framed photo of Bootsie with her collar on one corner and the ice skate lace that was her favorite toy. So much to remember.
A Skeptical Fawn, 1994
A skeptical Fawn indicates that I will not be interrupting her sunny repose with my silly toys. Fawn was a torbie and could seem a little cranky but she was all talk. As soon as I reached out to pet her that long black tabby tail was up in the air and the two orange stripes at the very tip were quivering with anticipation. When she sat, she always rested those two orange stripes over her orange-spattered paws.
This window at the top of the stairs was always a favorite, and this was soon after I’d moved in here, about 1994. I have a number of photos of her in the sunlight on this landing, on the windowsill, on the table, and even on the rocker in the studio where the sun reached in the morning. She was so happy in those moments. Later, as I wrote in “Taking Sally Home”, I sensed her spirit in the sunlight at the top of the steps. Until that moment, I had no idea how important it was to her. Even today when I look up the steps and see the sun at the top, I think of Fawn.
New Sunlight at the Doors, 2004
Sophie observes as I clean up the front porch on a late autumn afternoon.
Photographing through glass always softens things, and often odd reflections add interesting elements to the photo. Sophie was all about softness, with all that fur, and interesting elements with her babushka and dramatic eyeliner. The extra added artifacts from the glass and reflection make the photo look a little more vintage than it actually is.
These photos are more of autumn in black and white, as Sophie and Namir enjoy the new light coming in the front and back doors. The sun creeps to a lower and lower angle until the solstice, and the leaves fall from the trees until they are bare, and for a few short months we have sunshine in the house, glorious sunpuddles for kitties to enjoy. I had such a wonderful moment watching Namir enjoy the sun streaming in the back door into the kitchen just after breakfast. He couldn’t get enough of it, and I couldn’t get enough of him. It’s not a pivotal moment or even that uncommon, but I remember it and the bond we both felt in that simple moment I was photographing
I was photographing autumn in black and white to challenge what I see and what I think I know, to see the shapes and details and the compositions, leaving me with textures and patterns that are the foundations of my compositions. In this case they are all interiors, but amber sun, all the comforting warm tones, change to values of gray in black and white, but the light…the light is still that distinctive angle, nearly horizontal sometimes, highlighting details you might not notice in any other season. And this was black and white film, because there is nothing like black and white film, with lenses and filters, not digital shots with effects, so it was even more challenging than the immediate reassurance of checking the little display on my digital camera.
I found a box of black and white photos that I knew had existed but had been separated from the rest. They are from 2004 to 2006, so not terribly vintage, but because black and white processing became more and more difficult during those years I had to wait to see my photos. I found local film developers who would still do a few rolls and took several at once, then tucked them all together in a box and in my studio. Over the course of those three years, just before I bought my DSLR but still had a halfway decent Olympus digital, I went out to the garden, to my neighborhood, and to the trails with a roll or two of black and white film in October or November.
Sophie enjoyed the sun at the back door too, but instead of making her roll around in happiness, she let it soak in and went into deep contemplation. And she wants to know why I had to interrupt her contemplation.
Later on this roll, and likely later in the same day, Sophie came to the front door as I spent some time working outside. I have a few more things on the front porch right now, but I’ve gotten it down to the essentials for winter so we can get all that light onto the porch, and into the door.
Namir came along to check me too. I am never at a loss for supurrvision.
And just for fun, on the same roll I took photos of my street from the top and from the bottom. Just how steep is my street? This steep.
My house is that white one you can see the side of right about center. The spruce in front of it is the one that’s in my pictures outside my house.
Below, my street from the other end of the street that you see in the mid-left of the photo above. My house is just where the street starts to lift, about where the tallest tree that nearly touches the top of the photo is—that’s actually the maple that used to be in front of my house.
Photos From the Archives and Vintage Photos
Photos pulled “From the Archives” were taken by one or another digital camera of mine between 2002 and, well, yesterday, but usually they are older than that, and I had never had the chance to feature them. Vintage Photos are from my film archives back to 1983 when I purchased my Pentax K-1000 camera. They’re a fun way to “introduce” other members of my feline family who came and went before I began blogging, and to illustrate my feline family in general from days gone by.
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This photograph was taken in 1983, when I first got my camera and began photographing with black and white film. Kublai, the kitty who rescued me in college and truly began my life as an animal artist, was only about two years old. Read more, and purchase.
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