New York-based Arne Svenson’s photo series Strays is a truly delightful collection of images featuring baby animals facing away from the camera. Scroll on down past the pictures to read how this series came into being.
How did you come up with the idea to photograph the kittens the way you did?
I had been working on a particularly demanding series photographing forensic facial reconstructions and needed a break, both visually and spiritually. Taking photos of kittens seemed to be just the antidote, but I was initially turned off by the thought of photographing kittens just for their cuteness. This is when I had the idea of capturing them from the back – as though they had no interest in the viewer, as if the world of the backdrop was infinitely more interesting than the human face hovering above it. And, as many artists know, much can be learned from a portrait of the back of a head…
How long did the project take – how many kittens did you shoot, and how many pictures have made it into the final collection?
The project took about 2 years, off and on, and I photographed about fifty 6-8 week old kittens. About 120 images ended up in the final collection and the special edition book, Strays.
What was the longest you had to wait for a kitten to adopt a position you thought worthy of photographing?
Sometimes a kitten never adopted the position I thought worthy of photographing, other times they would slip right into it. I had two wranglers who would try to entice the kitten to sit still while looking away from the camera – much harder than it sounds when dealing with a 6 week old cat, a camera set-up and three frantic humans.
Was there a standard lighting/camera setup you employed for the series?
I used a Canon 5D and the lighting was a combination of daylight with strobe fill.
Was there a particular favorite of the animals you worked with?
There was a tiny feral kitten named Amber who was totally wild, unpredictable and ultimately delightful in her insane antics. She was the only cat I’ve ever seen climb up a sheet-rock wall.
Do you have a favorite picture from the series?
My favorite photo from the series is the image of the white and orange cat walking away from the camera. If you have a cat, you’ll know that this is the view most presented by our pets…
Would you consider doing a sequel to this series?
I think I captured everything I wanted in this series, but if presented with a box full of kittens I probably couldn’t resist getting my camera out again.
[ All photos courtesy Arne Svenson. The artist’s portrait is by Nina Subin. ]
Arne Svenson’s website.