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Remembering Walter Chandoha Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

19 January 2019

He was known as the Cat Photographer and his images of kittens and cats graced cat food labels, advertisements, posters, billboards, credit cards, calendars, books and magazines covers. Hundreds of them. Thousands, even.

It all started with just one kitten, though. Returning home from class one winter after World War II, he came across an abandoned gray kitten. It was shivering in the freezing air so he scooped it up, put it in the pocket of his Army jacket and brought it home to his wife Maria.

They named it Loco because, like any kitten, it was crazy, running all over the place, leaping tall furniture in a single bound, faster than a speeding bullet.

Chandoha took a few photos of Loco and sold them to newspapers and magazines all over the world.

'Cats are just naturally expressive. They get in such a variety of situations.'

By the 1950s he was the Cat Photographer.

He shot other animals in his career. Dogs, horses, farm animals, monkeys, gorillas. Even flora. But cats were his thing. "You'd never get the same expressions with dogs. Cats are just naturally expressive. They get in such a variety of situations."

Many of which he staged in his home studio with Maria serving as cat whisperer. "Maria could tell by the muscular tension in the animals themselves whether they were relaxing and when I saw something of interest happening, I'd say, 'Maria, go!' and she'd take her hands away," he said.

He was prepared for that fortuitous encounter with Loco by an interest in photography that stretched back to his childhood when he took photos with the family's Kodak camera. At the Lens Club in Bayonne, N.J., he learned his way around a darkroom, which helped get him a job after high school as a photographer's assistant in Manhattan.

He was drafted into the Army where he served as a press photographer for the weekly paper in Fort Dix before working as a combat photographer in the South Pacific. He used the G.I. Bill to attend the N.Y.U. School of Commerce, Accounts and Finance after being discharged.

He married Maria in 1949 and pursued a freelance career shooting Loco and other cats. "We starved for two years, were happy and although I did not realize it at the time, we were building a stock picture file that is still yielding today, some 50 years later."

A stock portfolio of 225,000 images, in fact. You can see a few of them on his Instagram page and more on his Web site.

He died Jan. 11 at the age of 98 at his home in Annandale where, his daughter Chiara said, his last cat Maddie, a tabby, followed him everywhere.

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