Strays: Quirky Photos of Kittens Giving the Camera the Cold Shoulder


There is no shortage of your typical cat photo online, but photographer Arne Svenson‘s series Strays isn’t exactly typical. Instead of cute photos of cute cats doing cute things in cute ways (enough cutes?) he photographed kittens turning away, looking up, walking away and otherwise doing their best to keep you from seeing their faces.

The idea to photograph kittens was suggested to him by a friend as a 180 to his series Unspeaking Likeness — a series of photos capturing forensic facial reconstruction sculptures. Days on end spent in medical examiners’ labs and coroners’ offices had left him drained, and kittens seemed the perfect “visual and spiritual antidote.”

The only question left at that point was how to do this in a unique or interesting way that matched the rest of his work, all of which focuses around “cast[ing] light on the unseen, the ignored and overlooked.”

Speaking with Feature Shoot, he explains what he came up with once he had the kittens in front of the camera:

After taking numerous pictures of the kittens looking at the camera I realized that there was something missing. Or perhaps there was too much — the cuteness factor was stifling. But finally a kitten sat, looked at me, and turned her head all the way around to stare at the background.

I snapped the photo and realized this was the portrait I wanted — a kitten who was more interested in the world around her than in me. And who, by means of posture, carriage and attitude, had exhibited facets of personality long-hidden behind that force field of kitten-eyes.

After that, the rest of the series came together immediately:














The series was about answering a few questions. “[Is] there a way to take a portrait of a kitten and not have cuteness dominate the image? [Is] it possible to ignore those big, entrancing eyes and find the kitten’s inner life, his back-story? D[o] kittens have back-stories?”

We’re not sure if he managed to do away with all of the “cuteness” that dominates a photo of a kitten, but the series did reiterate a concept Svenson believes all artists should be fairly familiar with: “much can be learned from a portrait of the back of a head …”

All of the kittens used were “loaned” to Svenson by Animalkind, a cat and kitten rescue facility in upstate New York that Svenson would love for you to donate to if you enjoy Strays. And if you’d like to see more of Svenson’s work, you can visit his website by clicking here.

(via Feature Shoot)

Image credits: Photographs by Arne Svenson and used with permission.

  • ramanauskas

    ““[Is] there a way to take a portrait of a kitten and not have cuteness dominate the image?”

    Evidently not.

  • Peter Neill

    Really the second pic you chose to include is a cat’s ass? Petapixel needs more moderation of article submissions..

  • harumph

    Next up: A Sears portrait photographer releases a series of outtakes where the subjects blinked during the shot.

  • Dover

    Because cats don’t have asses.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    They’re still predators. Try throwing in a lizard, frog, or cockroach, then let them have their way with it.

  • Christian DeBaun

    These would be the shots I’d normally reject in Lightroom, so it’s interesting to see just those with no comparison. It’s different.

  • Becca Gulliver

    I swear that’s a Furby and not a kitten in the image with the red background.

  • Lynn

    I get sick of cat photos, it seems that ‘photographers’ too lazy to get out and find a worthy subject, pick on the house bound moggy. You find them in camera and lens reviews, @ 100%, with meta data, etc etc. nasty bird eatin’ critters that make you sneeze!

  • spiralphoto

    Well, folks…looks like the idiotic sensitivity level of people has reached an all new high. “HOW DARE YOU SHOW A CAT’S ASS PUBLICLY!” You must be one of those people who insist on clothing their pets.

  • Fullstop

    These are portraits of killers.

  • Vin Weathermon

    I’m no cat person (dog lover) be jeez what’s the rant on “predatory nature” of cats? Dogs will eat a lizard, bird or rat if they can catch them. Cats are just more stealthy.

  • Ralph Hightower

    Typical cat arrogance!

  • anthonybrown0917

    My Uncle Eli just got a year old Nissan Versa just by working online with a lap-top… a knockout post ►►►►►►PORT60.COM

  • Nic Cage’s Hair

    Hands down, THE worst article i’ve seen on this site. I’m sure folks would love to see people staring at garish fabrics with their backs turned to the camera as well. Whoever approves submissions on this site, you’re suspended for one day and forced to look at pictures of cats staring at ugly fabrics!

  • Graf Almassy

    Oh my holy cow…

    Tons of press photos from warzones with full of blood is okay… but cat’s ass is a big scandal. Sure.

  • Peter Neill

    sadly people are missing the point, i don’t object to the content, i find it bizarre that they did not pick a better image for the article. As in it was the worst of the bunch by a long way and hardly the photo to pick as the second most prominent pic for the article..

  • Graf Almassy

    That angle of view is familiar for me, because my cat often show me her asshole. This is part of the nature. If you hate that, just scroll faster to the next picture.