Issue 08

Pussy Galore

Dispelling the ‘crazy cat lady’ myth one photo shoot at a time

By Ilana Kaplan
Photographed by BriAnne Wills

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Ladies who love their cats get a notoriously bad rap. Fashion and beauty photographer BriAnne Wills is one of those ladies, and it was her affinity for felines and meeting new people that sparked the concept of her ongoing photo series, Girls and Their Cats (girlsandtheircats.com), which has her smashing stereotypes with every shoot.

Back in September 2014, Wills, a Portland, OR, native moved to Brooklyn with her husband. As a way to network within the creative industry, she began taking photos of women nude in their homes. During one shoot, a cat jumped into the shot. “We kept that going because it became so cute, intimate, and special,” explains Wills. “The photos were more interesting than her being naked.” After that, Wills noticed that there were “crazy cat lady” photo series and series of men with cats, but “no one had focused on cool, interesting cat ladies,” so she decided to make that her mission.

 Wills has photographed more than 176 women. In the beginning, she shot friends of friends. Now she regularly gets emails from ladies who want their cat connections documented. “I’m looking for women in the [creative] industry who have interesting stories to tell,” says Wills, who has photographed artists, writers, musicians, and designers. Her feline subjects have ranged from hairless sphynxes and massive Siberians to steely-eyed Himalayans and calico rescues, but two that stand out in her mind are Lois and Maxine. The two black-furred beauties belong to New York–based journalist and gallery owner Alexandra King and have cerebellar hypoplasia, also known as wobbly cat syndrome. “They don’t have balance or coordination, and they walk like little drunks,” Wills explains. “They’re so sweet; it’s a special story.”

  Now Wills is looking to take Girls and Their Cats to the next level. “I would love to do a book,” she says. “I would love to take this on the road somehow and photograph girls and their cats in Tokyo, Paris, or L.A.” As the project progresses, so does Wills’s network: “One of the most incredible things about the project is how many amazing women I’ve met,” says Wills. “I moved to New York without knowing anyone, and I now have 176 new friends.”

“He’s truly the most confident cat I’ve ever met—friendly, playful, outgoing. His favorite thing in the entire world is paper bags. If I go grocery shopping and bring back paper bags, he will cry until I remember to take the groceries out and give him the bag to sleep in. I named him Claude because he was like a little fluffy cloud.”

Xj8 A6929 Dana

 

Dana Boyer is a hairdresser in NYC who works on set in fashion and advertising.

“We have a ritual that we like to do when I get home: I’ll lie on the couch, and he’ll jump on me and snuggle into my chest for pets and then purr like a madman. We’ll stay like that until he’s had enough. It’s the best end-of-a-workday therapy I can think of, and if we don’t do ‘the thing’ he follows me around until I make time for it.”

Tiffany Wines is a 21-year-old student and intern at The Fader. She writes and works as a freelance photographer.

“Athena is my best friend, no exaggeration. When I’m home, we’re inseparable—she follows me from room to room, purring and winding around my ankles. Every morning I wake up to her bumping her face gently against mine, and when I leave her sight for too long, she howls till I come back. Taking care of her is an integral part of taking care of myself. It fills me with warmth and purpose every day.”

 Yael Borensztein is a nurse, birth doula, lactation consultant, and founder of bornknowing.co in NYC. She lives in the East Village. 

“My friends call her a supermodel because her looks can be smoldering, but she is kind to everyone she meets. She also has very annoying ways of demanding attention, like banging cabinet doors or threatening to knock my grandmother’s handed-down keepsakes from the top shelf at 3 a.m. But she gives me the sweetest, purring hugs when I get home from a hospital shift or a 35-hour birth, and often massages my arm until we both fall asleep.”

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