About six weeks ago, Brooklyn resident, photographer and Cat Woman BriAnne Wills uploaded an article to Bored Panda titled Girls And Their Cats: My Photos Of New York Women With Their Furry Companions. It was BriAnne’s first photo series and within was picked up by online publications domestically and around the world like UK’s Daily Mail.
The ongoing series Girls and Their Cats currently features around 20 women with their cats. I had the distinct honor of being photographed with my cats this past weekend (so far a photo of me with Petie made the cut, paws crossed you’ll see me with Had and Kip soon!). We also chatted over a mug of almond chai about her photography and two cats Tucker and Liza.
BriAnne’s been a photographer since her college days, and began shooting weddings after graduation to pay the bills. But wedding photography was not destined to be her career if she had anything to say about it. She was on to bigger and better things!
Originally from Portland, she spent several years traveling to the Ukraine, Czech republic and China where she put together her editorial photographer portfolio – as she reminded me, models practically grow on trees in Eastern Europe! Ukraine is also from where her cats Tucker and Liza hail (we’ll get to them in a bit!).
Having moved to New York just this past September, BriAnne thought finding local female models to photograph would be a good way to meet people her age. So she set off to photograph a series of nudes. “Girls and Their Cats,” is a happy accident that likely would never have occurred had her first model not been a cat mom.
You may have noticed only one of the women on the site is wearing her birthday suit, she’s even the Tumblr masthead covered by her cat. After reviewing the selects from the shoot, BriAnne loved the ones with the model interacting with her cat the most. And thus, the birth of “Girls and Their Cats.”
BriAnne says she didn’t consciously set out to make a statement with her photograph, she just wanted to take beautiful photographs of cute girls with their cats that highlighted their shared bond. It certainly didn’t hurt that it helped show the world that “cat ladies are not crazy, but cute and stylish.” (Personally I’d add “can” as a modifier!).
Interestingly most of the girls in the series are married or in relationships. But BriAnne does it’s much more acceptable for a single girl to have cats these days and she’s not surprised as more women decided not to marry, or marry later in life. “Felines provide companionship, are not needy and never judge you for staying in your PJs all day.”
Though she uses the term “cat lady” herself, BriAnne admits it implies “crazy cat lady” in our culture. When I asked her why she chose term “girls” for her photo series versus “women” or “cat ladies” she says it came naturally as she refers to people in her age range as “girls” (she’s 31 in case you were wondering). She felt using the term “cat lady” would focus more on the cat mom versus the relationship between mom and cat(s).
BriAnne didn’t just rescue her two cats Tucker and Liza by going to a rescue group or shelter, she literally rescued them from certain death while in the Ukraine where there seems to be a huge overpopulation problem.
As to how Liza, entered her life, it all started at 3am when she heard non-stop mewing that was impossible to ignore, so she went out to investigate thinking it must be coming from close by. Well, it turns out the incessant and rather loud mews were coming from a teeny tiny kitten stuck up high in a tree. BriAnne guesses she couldn’t have been more than a month or so. Quickly realizing she wouldn’t be able to reach her she got her husband out of bed, calling him a “trooper” (I’ll second that!).
Though he tried climbing the tree he was unable to reach the little critter. Luckily for all, “some strange man was walking his dog and was about six feet tall” (and this is why I don’t have a dog – 3am walks?!). He hoisted her husband up into the tree but when he got to her, well any cat person can guess how this plays out.
The kitten got spooked and scampered off to another unreachable branch. The branch was so tiny it couldn’t even support her and she came crashing down to the ground. As BriAnne tells it all she could think was, “great, we killed it.” Luckily that was not the case and now she’s sweetly referred to as her “chunky monkey.”
Tucker entered the family when she passed him on the street and literally as BriAnne recounts, “I thought he was dying on the side of the road.” She went over and started petting him to make sure he was still conscious, recalling getting strange looks from people as if to say, “why are you touching him, why don’t you just let him die.”
(In fairness, when you come from a society where human life is incredibly fragile, and the survival of your wife and children is a priority, human life comes first – thinking about the welfare of an animal that’s not yours may come second or not even be in ones consideration set).
A true animal lover, she put him in her sweatshirt and took him directly to he bathroom so as not to infect Liza with anything he might be carrying given he was covered in fleas. She took a photo and sent it to her husband with one word. “Oops!” They tried finding him a home but quickly fell in love. And so it seems did Liza, and the feeling was mutual.
And while I’m sure we’ll continue to see cats and cat “girls” on BriAnne’s Instagram feed and Tumblr, she hopes to expand and grow her portfolio into the world of fashion editorial. But you never know, there’s room for felines in the editorial world as we’ve seen more and more over the last few years from brands like Neiman Marcus to Vogue!
(Check out the Petie photo & let BriAnne know you want to see Haddie & Kip! I know, it’s kind of cheating but I’m older and need all the help I can get. Not to say I’m not SEXY or anything, just not a “girl” or a model! Exceptions must be made!)