Tania Hennessy’s life is literally enveloped in cats. As a foster parent for Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA), her apartment is frequently home to a clowder of kitties. And as a member of the thriving the Vancouver art scene, felines have taken over her studio as well, making her well known for her signature pastel kitten photography. So far she’s hosted (and art directed) around 150 cats and kittens!
Tania spends hours in her studio with each of her fluffy subjects. “I love the challenge because they don’t pose, sit or stay on command. They really just do what they want,” she says with a grin. “The niche came about naturally as a result of fostering, because having amazing photos of the cats and kittens help them find forever homes,” she said.
These rescue felines return the favor by enhancing her work. “Instead of relying on the uniqueness of a particular breed to create interesting photography, I utilize my access to a range of rescue cats and kittens.”
“The patience and persistence it takes to get some of these photos can be ridiculous. But when I just know I’ve got ‘the shot’, that’s what makes it addictive.”
Sessions often include snacking, kitty clients drifting off to sleep mid-pose, and exploration of every inch of the space beyond the backdrop (often featured on Instagram stories!)
Where does she draw her inspiration as an artist? “I love to follow artists and photographers who take an idea in a small niche and really commit to creating a body of work around it. You can tell when an artist is genuinely obsessed with the the work they do, and I find that so inspiring.”
Tania’s favorites include the larger-than-life bird photography of Leila Jeffreys, the photography of Walter Chandoha (known as the grandfather of cat photography), and the websites of Rafael Rozendaal.
Her most recent collection, Emoji Kittens, is a twist on the classic “calendar kitten” photography of the past. “Emojis are the ultimate in current pop culture iconography,” she says. “I couldn’t believe combining the two darlings of the internet – emojis and kittens – had never been done.” Doughnut Kitten (above) even has a dedicated website!
But no great artist can go it alone. “I couldn’t do it without my incredible kitten fluffers! My assistants Mark, Kat and Laura have such patience. Their belief in my ideas is what drives me to keep creating these images.”
Has she ever been tempted to keep any of her adorable fosters? “There’s no way we’d have been able to save all of those abandoned cats and kittens if we’d foster failed!” Tania says emphatically. “Every time one of our fosters finds a home, we’re making room for another kitten in need.”
Tania has countless foster memories to cherish, both the joyful and those tinged with sadness.
“In the past year I’ve helped a three-legged amputee recover and worked with a semi feral cat to overcome her fear of humans. I had the privilege of being with a tiny kitten and keeping her comfortable as she took her last breaths. Not too long ago I sat with my current foster cat, Cauliflower, as she gave birth to five kittens in my bathroom.”
And her most memorable foster moment?
“I was bottle feeding a litter of tiny, two-week-old kittens last year. I was preparing milk for their feed, and when I turned around one of them had most hilarious poo smear moustaches!” She bursts out laughing at the memory.
“He must have been nuzzling around his brother’s bum and stimulated the poop. It was so hysterically funny, seeing this tiny little kitten look up at me with his ridiculous poo-
stache. From then on he was called Poostachio!”
Tania has many more Emoji Kittens images awaiting release over the coming year. And if that’s not enough excitement (or cuteness!), she’s been holding auditions or for the coveted spot of Doughnut Kitten 2017. The winner will be shared appropriately enough on June 2nd – National Doughnut Day!
You can keep up with Tania’s photography on her website, Instagram, and Facebook.
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