When Marcel Heijnen took a picture of cat hanging out in a shop in Hong Kong, he didn't know he had just uncovered his next project. He calls it "pure serendipity."
"[I moved to] an area that is rapidly gentrifying, with new cafés and galleries coming up left right and center, but it’s still rooted in tradition, as well — there’s loads of dried-seafood shops and traditional Chinese medicine halls," he said. "I noticed a cat sitting on the counter of one of those stores and photographed it on my iPhone. Then, another and another."
Soon, his series, Chinese Whiskers,
was born. Hong Kong Shop Cats
is the first installment. Why did he choose to focus his lens on these furry friends? Because they're fascinating (feline) subjects.
"They have character. Each cat you meet — and I lived with many over the years — is entirely his, her own ‘person,’" he said.
Photographing the felines hasn't always been easy. Heijnen sometimes spends hours in the same store trying to capture a picture or comes back another day in search for the perfect shot.
"A cat is a moving subject, so I tread carefully," he said "Almost all of these shop cats are very friendly and good with people and I know from experience that when you lower yourself, which I often need to do to get a better vantage point, they read that as a signal to come over to be caressed. Which is cool, but then my shot is gone, of course."
Hong Kong Shop Cats
, the book, will be available in late November.
Heijnen's friend, Ian Row, wrote haiku to accompany the photos in the collection.
Heijnen said he expects the project will bring some happiness to others and make them understand the special bond that cats and humans share.
"If nothing else, I’d just like it to bring a smile on people’s faces," he said. "I feel it’s a bit of fun and humorous 'news,' which we don’t get enough of in today’s world. But it’s also meant to display a forgotten world in which humans and felines seem to have a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship."
Ahead, meet the cats that call these shops their homes.