Here’s something different for our Cat Photography Q & A. We usually interview photographers who work with fancy equipment in studio settings taking refined portraits of pampered house cats. This time we’re talking to Adam Myatt, a.k.a. The Cat Man of West Oakland, whose specialty is photographing street cats, which he affectionately refers to as Hoodcats. Adam started off using just his smart phone, which goes to show that you don’t need a fancy camera to take amazing photos of cats, just a good eye and a passion for documenting our furry friends. And as you’ll see, Adam’s cat photography led him into cat rescue and advocacy, where he is making a significant contribution to improving the lives of many, many cats.
How long have you been photographing cats and how did you get started?
I’ve been taking pictures of cats for about 3 or 4 years now, it all started when one of my bands (James & Evander) went on a short west coast tour. A buddy had gone on tour a few months before us, and posted some photos of “Cats On Tour” which I thought was an awesome idea, and I just wanted to continue that fun tradition.
Shortly after the tour we moved to our current place in West Oakland, and I kept seeing cats everywhere! I continued to take and post photos labeling them “Cats (not) On Tour” which quickly evolved into ‘Hoodcats’. My roommates and I made an EP of tunes under the same ‘Hoodcats‘ name using the photos as inspiration, and then friends started asking what else I could do with the pictures. I was perfectly happy just letting them live on the internet (I only had a modest following of a couple hundred people), but decided to see if I could get funding to make a calendar. I set-up a 2013 Hoodcats Calendar Kickstarter campaign, and sold out of 100 copies before the campaign was over! I was pretty surprised at it’s success, so I set my goal for the 2014 calendar to make and sell 500, and wound up getting funding to make 1000 and sold out of those, too. The 2015 Hoodcats Calendar is already in production, see below for a special offer!
After the first calendar, the East Bay Express dubbed me ‘The Cat Man of West Oakland‘ which got the attention of a few East Bay rescue groups. In the article I mentioned wanting to foster for Cat Town somewhere down the line (my roommate Glenn is allergic, so I don’t actually get to bring any of my furry friends indoors), which started a dialog with Ann Dunn, the founder of Cat Town, about how we could help some of these feral street cats and kittens. We’ve since rescued 4 or 5 litters of kittens off the streets, and spayed or neutered about a dozen adults, with some brought indoors and adopted as well. The 2015 Hoodcats Calendar campaign received nearly 200% of the funding I needed, so I’m using the funds raised from it to help Feral Change, another Oakland based feral cat spay/neuter and rescue group, and to keep the Hoodcats cared for and fed!
Ann and I had been bouncing other ideas around about how we could collaborate, and late last year we decided that we wanted to partner to bring the first Cat Cafe here to the USA! It’s been a crazy year, but on October 25, 2014 we opened the Cat Town Cafe & Adoption Center in Oakland. We weren’t 100% sure how people would take to the idea, or how well the adoption numbers would be, but since opening we’ve had 71 cats adopted and have about a dozen in foster-to-adopt homes, which is more than a cat a day! Reservations for the Cat Zone have also been booked every weekend we’ve been open, and we’ve received some amazing press from The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and even a brief mention on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update!
What was the most challenging cat photo shoot you have done? Any funny stories?
The most challenging shoot I’ve done so far has got to be from this past April when I went to Japan and the ‘Cat Islands.’ I visited Ainoshima in Fukuoka, with my buddy Sean, the Airbnb host we were staying with, and her 6 year old son. Going on a feral cat photo hunt and trying to calmly approach cats with a hyper 6 year old in tow wasn’t the easiest feat!
Hoodcats photoshoots can be pretty tricky sometimes, too. I’ve startled a few people by being crouched down around fences/gates/driveways, but I try to stay off private property, and when I explain that I’m just taking pictures of cats and work with a rescue, people are generally receptive. But it can get a little crazy depending on how fast cars are driving through the neighborhoods, or folks being loud or rowdy on the streets.
Do you have any tips for readers about how to take great photos of their cats?
You’ve got to be quick on the draw! Cats move fast, so capturing the right moment is all about timing. Always try to keep a decent amount of open space on your phone/memory card, you don’t want to be having to go through and delete files mid shoot, and miss the action because you weren’t prepared, or your camera could start operating slow because the disk is too full. If you’re using a point and shoot or DSLR it’s not a bad idea to use some sort of continuous shooting mode. It makes the odds of grabbing that right moment or facial expression that much better!
For the more technically inclined readers, can you please tell us what equipment you use?
Up until this past May I was only using my iPhone (3, then got a hand-me-down of a 4). After Japan though, I knew I needed to step my game up (I should have done it BEFORE the trip!), and upgraded to the Sony RX100ii. I needed something that would take higher quality photos than the phone, but still be small enough to fit in my pocket (so I could take it everywhere) and be discreet enough to not scare the cats or draw unwanted attention to myself. It also takes great high quality video that’s on par with most DSLR’s out there, and flows seamlessly between my buddy Sean who does most of the Hoodcats / Cat Town video work. Then, the photos get processed through VSCO, Lightroom, or just Instagram and posted!
2015 HOODCATS CALENDAR – GET FREE SHIPPING!
Hauspanther readers can get FREE SHIPPING on the 2015 Hoodcats Calendar! Just enter discount code HAUSPANTHER2015 when purchasing your calendar at the Hoodcats online store. Calendars are just $10 each and come with a set of four Hoodcats stickers and one Hoodcats logo sticker FREE! Plus, sales of the calendar go to benefit Feral Change, a cat rescue that focuses on TNR in West Oakland!
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See more of Adam’s cat photos at OaklandHoodcats.com. You can also follow him on Instagram @hoodcats, and on Facebook.