Cats are certainly having their moment. From memes to museum exhibits to full-page articles in major publications, felines are everywhere these days. And for the women who love their cats, there’s a chance to join in on the fun thanks to fashion photographer BriAnne Wills.
Earlier this year, BriAnne founded Girls and Their Cats, a photography series capturing the intimate bond between New York women and their kitty companions. She initially launched her work on a Tumblr page, expecting it to be a quick project before she got back to the fashion world. Instead, cat lovers found BriAnne, and she now has almost 4,000 followers on Girls and Their Cats’ Instagram account. She is currently expanding the series to accommodate the growing community of like-minded women relishing their fondness for felines.
We recently chatted with BriAnne about how her small project is quickly becoming a big one and why women and their cats are in the spotlight.
What inspired you to start Girls and Their Cats?
My husband and I moved here last September. I didn’t know very many people, so I was looking for a creative outlet and a way to meet people in Brooklyn and also people in the industry. I put out a casting for a series of nudes; I just wanted to shoot some nudes in people’s homes. The first nude model who I shot actually had a cat. So I decided to take a few photos of her and her cat, and I thought it was way more interesting than just naked girls. That kind of propelled it. I had already done a few with my cats just for fun. Once I shot the model, I thought yeah, this could actually become a series. I decided to put out another casting on Instagram asking for any cute and stylish ladies who had cats and wanted to be photographed. I got so many people responding.
At what point did you realize your photos had a following?
I originally thought it was just going to be 20 photos and done. I launched the Tumblr not thinking anything of it. I knew I wanted to show the series to people, but I didn’t know how. I had shared it with Bored Panda and then they let me know it went viral. The next big one was the Daily Mail. They had contacted me, and I thought oh wow, this did go far. So many people were interested, so I thought if this is going to continue, I guess I can start an Instagram. Now it’s going pretty far.
Why do you think people responded so positively to your work?
It shows women in a positive light. It shows women being beautiful and cool with their cats. I think it’s not as taboo to have a cat. A lot of women are in relationships. They are kind of showing you can have a cat and date too. You can have a few cats and date. A lot of them have a couple cats, you just don’t see them in all the photos.
What do you think is behind people’s obsession with cats right now?
Cats are the only reason we have internet. Cats are just hilarious. They make great videos. I know why I’m obsessed with my cats. They’re just great companions and they’re low maintenance.
How do you find the women and their cats to feature?
I have not even had to try. They’ve just been emailing me left and right. I can’t even respond to everybody because there are so many emails with people who want to participate. The way that I’ve been doing it since launching the first 20 photos is recommendation based. Every girl recommends three other girls. And then those three girls recommend girls.
I do look for women who have a unique sense of style. Maybe who have a cool adoption story, an interesting job, or anybody who strikes me personally as being beautiful. I look for all forms of beauty. I don’t have a cookie cutter example.
Do most of the women adopt their cats?
A lot of the women have either adopted through an adoption center or they’ve gotten them from Craigslist or from a friend who could no longer keep them.
Are the cats you photograph usually cooperative?
No, almost never. They’re super sweet and loving when I get there, and then when I pull out the camera and we start trying to coax them into different poses and positions, they’re like what is going on. This is probably related to a vet visit or something. They run away, they hide, or they just don’t sit still. And I try to shoot a lot of natural light, so a lot of those photos turn out with little blurry cat faces. I actually recommend that the girls get cat treats to have on hand. If they’re food motivated, it really helps.
Have you had the chance to work with any unusual breeds?
I had a few girls who have hairless sphynx cats. They’re very cool looking and cool feeling, too.
Is there a hot bed of cat owners in New York?
I tend to photograph a lot of girls in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. That’s where most of the girls are concentrated.
Why is New York the perfect city to have a cat?
I wouldn’t say it’s the perfect city to have a cat, but the other way around. Cats are perfect for NYC because they are low maintenance, don’t require a lot of space, don’t need to be walked morning and night, and they sleep almost all day, so they don’t miss you too much when you’re at work.
In addition to your feline photography, what fashion photography projects are you currently working on?
I do a lot of lookbooks. I just shot one for a local New York designer. I also do a lot of editorials. I try to do an editorial a month for a magazine. It’s crazy right now because Girls and Their Cats has taken over a large portion of my time, to the point where I have one girl a day right now.
Can cat fans look forward to any exciting upcoming shoots or projects?
I will be posting another casting soon because I’m going to be traveling to Portland next month. So I’m going to try and do cat ladies in Portland. I would also like to branch out and do other big cities.
What does sharing the connection between women and their cats mean to you?
There is some unspoken immediate bond between cat women. We all just sort of feel that.
[This interview has been edited]
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All photos via BriAnne Wells/Girls and Their Cats