Monday, March 31, 2014

Le Chat with Ketan Shah

Kickstarting our "Le Chat - QnA" column, we speak to one of the pioneer and long-running contributors of COTW on where to sniff out the kitties and how to not spook them out. Enjoy!
WHO:  Ketan Shah
If You Leave - Ketan Shah (Pasir Ris)
Where are the best places to find cats to photograph?
After a while you develop a sense about where to find strays. Back alleys in places where there are lots of shophouses, such as Little India and Geylang, are a good hunting ground. There are often strays in HDB void decks and town centres. I've come across lots of community cats at places like Toa Payoh, Eunos and Pasir Ris Central. There's a lot in Changi Village and along Changi beach also. Hawker centres and markets are good spots as well. Keep your eyes open and you'll find these 'invisible citizens' are actually everywhere.

When photographing a cat, how do you approach cats without scaring the living daylights out of them?

A good zoom helps of course but there's nothing like getting up close and personal :-) I find that it's useful to get lower to the ground by crouching. Move slowly and freeze if you're noticed (especially if the cat looks like it's about to make a run for it), then continue to edge closer when the cat looks away.

I find that many neighbourhood cats are used to being around people and don't get scared off easily. They often suss you out as you register on their radar and then ignore you once they decide you're not a threat. Some of the more spoiled community cats will actually come towards you looking for treats. Once you've gotten in close enough and find that you want the cat to look at you (and the camera), it sometimes helps to snap your fingers or make some other kind of sharp noise to get their attention.
On a slightly more technical note, my camera has a tilting LCD screen which helps a lot as it allows me to compose low angle shots easily without having to lie flat on the floor.

Master and Commander - Ketan Shah (Waterloo Street)

What are some of the memorable cats you have come across (not necessarily shot)?

There was a community cat near my office at Waterloo Street that seemed to be much loved by the locals. I have several pictures of it being petted, photographed and even given an impromptu massage with an umbrella. Unfortunately that cat as well as one or two others from the area seem to have disappeared. I'm hoping they weren't taken away by the AVA.
I think every photographer thinks of 'the one that got away'. In my case I was passing by some terrace houses in Geylang when a cat jumped onto the front gate and did a perfect stretch next to an ornamental stone lion. It would have been a great shot but by the time I switched on my camera, the moment had passed.

Should we let sleeping cats lie, and why?

Definitely. Woudn't you like to enjoy your naptime without being prodded awake for a photo?

Family Portrait - Ketan Shah (Geylang Bahru)

What is about cats that interest you?

I wouldn't say I'm interested in cats per se,but I do like to observe the relationships between community cats and and the people around them.You see busy Singaporeans often going out of their way to perform random acts of kindness. I also enjoy the challenge of shooting these cats as it forces you to look in nooks and crannies you might not normally look in and to make quick shooting decisions.
If you had 9 lives, who or what would you be?

I'd be anyone and anything as the mood takes me and probably find that 9 lives still wouldn't be enough.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Of Cats and Canvases

By Noelle Tan

We could be biased (!) but we think cats are simply wonderful in all shapes and forms, including those created with a brush. Our shortlist of artists for this year’s exhibition is coming together and we’re so excited about our first-ever art instalment. In the meantime until the big reveal, here is our tribute to feline gorgeousness in various art forms over the past centuries.

Artist: Byon Sang-Byeok
Title: Gukjeong Chumyo

This beauty’s eyes and posture tell us it’s transfixed on something and ready to pounce! This 18th Century painting is by a famous animal painter of the Korean Joseon Dynasty and the name of the painting means ‘a cat and chrysanthemum in a garden in autumn’. What have you seen, sweetie?

Title: Gayer-Anderson Cat
Period: 664 to 332BC

Currently on display at the British Museum, this bronze statue was modelled after the Egyptian cat-goddess Bastet and is adorned with jewellery as well as an amulet. It is so-named after the last owner who donated this majestic treasure to the museum.

Artist: David Hockney
Title: Mr N' Mrs Clark and Percy

Painted between 1970 and 1971, this famous work by British artist David Hockney is at first glance, a rather ordinary portrait of a couple and their cat. Look closely however, and we see distant expressions on their faces and a gulf between them, symbolised by an unusual focal point of the window. Our feline friend is, most glaringly, sitting with its back to us, further evoking a mood of nonchalance. It is said that the cat here represents the lack of moral restraint. The subjects – Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell – were friends of Hockney’s and their marriage, sadly, did not last.

Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Title: Julie Manet with Cat

The famous Impressionist genius Renoir has captured Miss Julie, the niece of the equally well-known painter Manet, and her cat in a particularly affectionate light. We love the use of colours here and of course, the utterly content expression of the mew-se!

Title: Dalí Atomicus
Photographer: Philippe Halsman

Suspend your disbelief – this is a real photograph sans photoshopping and a result of 28 attempts to achieve the perfect shot. The 1948 work explores the idea of suspension, depicting three cats flying, water thrown from a bucket, an easel, a footstool and surrealist artist Salvador Dalí all seemingly suspended in mid-air. We don’t know how it was done and we certainly hope no cats were injured in the making of this work! Dalí’s painting Leda Atomica can be seen in the background.

Artist: Picasso
Title: Dora Maar au Chat

The cat here is said to symbolise sexual aggression and feminine charm. She perches rather loftily on the regal-looking Dora Maar, who was the lover and muse of Picasso. Apparently, Picasso once likened Dora’s temperament to a cat’s – the talon-like hands are no coincidence, we suspect!

Title: Girl with a Kitten
Artist: Lucian Freud

This disturbing 1947 oil painting of the artist’s first wife Kathleen immediately brings to mind one question – what is she doing to the cat? The blank gaze from the human and intense stare from the animal send chills down one’s spine. Lucian was the grandson of Sigmund Freud.

Title: A Bottle of Red Wine That We Love
Artist: Unknown, but a meowvellous toast to you!

We couldn’t resist this last picture of ‘the cunning little cat’ - Le Petit Chat Malin - salut!

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unless with our permission)