Fat Cats: Large and In Charge

The New Feline Photo Series From Pete Thorne

By Sarah Fisher

fat cats: large in charge pete thorn

Plump. Stout. Portly. There are many ways to describe portrait photographer Pete Thorne’s newest muses. As a follow up to his beloved Old Faithful: Dogs of a Certain Age collection, his latest, more lighthearted project is showcasing curvy kitties in a whole new light. We had the chance to chat with Pete on the inspiration for this series and how the project is coming together. As no one can relate to the challenges of photographing animals quite like us, we also got Pete’s expert tips for you on how to capture your puss in the purrfect pose. While Instagram fame may not be in the cards for every cat, brighten your day with some of our favorite ‘large and in charge’ models below.

How did you get started in photography?

I originally was interested in film making. I attended the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (NSCAD) and that’s why I went out to NS – there was a burgeoning film scene there. I got frustrated with the expenses involved in making films (especially before digital). I had a lot of ideas, so I turned to photography and ended up falling in love with it.

Are you a cat or dog person?

I’m more of a dog person! I don’t have a pet at the moment; when I moved to Toronto, it just didn’t make sense yet to take on the responsibility while I was setting myself up. It is one of my life goals. I can’t wait to live and work from home with a dog and cat running around!

What was the original inspiration for the Fat Cats project?

Following my previous project, Old Faithful, I knew I wanted to do a follow up in some way involving cats. Old Faithful is still a passion project for me, but because you’re dealing with really old dogs, some do pass, and it can be a bit emotionally draining. People contact me to say how appreciative they are to have these photos of their dogs which is rewarding. I wanted to do something upbeat and silly, and more colorful and vibrant with cats.

I started from a point where I thought, what haven’t I seen done yet with cat photos? What’s something unique I can sink my teeth into?

I thought chubby cats were cute and I was looking around in how they are represented in pop culture. There are cats like Garfield, there are mean cats, the stuck in a doorway cat, or the big lazy kitties. I wanted to celebrate the chubby cats and put them in the spotlight without mocking them. One thing about this project, dealing with obese and chubby cats, is that I’m not condoning a sedentary lifestyle. I’m not judging the pet owners or promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. I’m presenting the cats in a way they aren’t often shown. My sister is actually a veterinarian and in talking to her I saw it as an opportunity to educate.

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How did you find the featured cats?

So many people have chubby cats it surprised me! I started off putting up signs around pet stores and vet clinics, and most of the cats were crowdsourced through social media. I posted in the Bunz Zone Pet Group and that’s where a lot of the cats came from.

Do you have a favorite kitty from the project?

They all stand out to me! I guess the cover model BeeDee was very memorable; he’s the most chill cat. The owners would lay him on the backdrop and he was not fazed by me setting up my equipment while most cats would go running. For each cat I photograph, I get to learn a lot about the pet from the owners, so with all the special stories that are shared with me, they all standout.

How are people able to support the photos?

I am self publishing a limited run. There is a Kickstarter you can support for me to continue shooting more cats.

For each cat, I set up a mini studio in each owner’s home – the cats get too scared in studio, so the set up, tear down, and session for each can get costly. I’m excited to reach my goal and release a limited version.

How did this project compare to Old Faithful?

It’s shot in the same style – to take everyday pets and elevate them like models with flattering lighting. The biggest difference is the challenge in shooting the animals! Dogs are food focused – even if they are deaf and blind like some of the subjects in Old Faithful, food usually directs them to the camera. With cats, I have no clue what I’m walking into!

I tell owners not to get frustrated if we can’t get the shot. It just happens. The cat is in charge and does what it wants! I literally put the cats on a pedestal to photograph them so they aren’t able to just walk away. Sometimes, you only get one shot if they don’t like the flash.

Social media has encouraged many owners to photograph their own pets. Any tips for our readers on getting the purrfect shot?

Being patient! Being persistent, too.

For some cats, I’ve had to go back and shoot them several times, with different lighting setups and plans. I’ve learned to simplify because I can’t control the lighting as you can with a person. Cats prove to be the biggest difficulty. I’m a portrait photographer, so I like to shoot animals as if they are people. I try to create classic posses and capture expression.

Follow the progress of Pete’s projects online at petethornephoto.com