Cats of the Past is a vintage photography project combining my love of social history - and cats.
I’ve always loved rummaging through suitcases of old photographs in junk shops and at vintage fairs - I find it so sad that they have lost their families, but I also find the social history aspect absolutely fascinating - seeing the fashion of the time, the hairstyles, the decor, the food people are eating. I found my first cat photo in 2016 and have been collecting them ever since.
Cat photos are surprisingly rare, which makes finding them so much more enjoyable. I come across hundreds of photographs of people with their pet dogs while I’m searching for cat ones, but cats haven’t always been the much loved family members they are today. Many were brought to the home to work as pest control and, as they were susceptible to catching fleas as well as mice, they often lived outside. I love coming across a family photo that includes a cat! The fact that they feature in an expensive photograph shows how loved they must have been.
My most treasured photo (above) is of four generations of my own family - complete with a pet cat - taken around 1916.
I think larger group photos are my favourite. I can imagine the stress of getting everyone still and looking at the camera, and then a cat sauntering past and someone saying “quick, someone get the cat in!” just as the picture is about to be taken!