Cats in Venice

Italian photographer Marianna Zampieri has managed to capture the beautiful bond that exists between a bride and her cat with images that convey companionship, trust and love. The magical essence that is the domestic feline comes through in all her work including one special project soon to be the focus of a book titled Cats in Venice.

In anticipation of her new book I reached out to Marianna to talk about her photography, the book and of course her love of cats.

How did you get started in cat photography?

I have a passion for cats and photography and I started taking photos 5 years ago, a little time after my cat Arthur came into my life. I’ve worked on two main projects – Passions and the ongoing C-AT Work with cats as the protagonist. Then, in June of 2017 I started with my other project Cats in Venice.

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Cats in Venice – Image © Marianna Zampieri

What is your first memories with cats?

I have always been a cat lover, I think I was born with the passion for these amazing animals. A very large part of my memories are related to cats, I remember that I knew all the streets near my house by the cats that I used to meet on them. When I was young I had the fortune to share some years with a cat family that arrived in my garden, so I was lucky enough to observe their lives.

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Marianna with her cat Arthur – Image © Marianna Zampieri

Are you involved with any local cat rescue groups?

I manage a Facebook page dedicated to adoptions and food collection for cats in my city, organize information events and I also donate the proceeds to the branch of ENPA, an animal protection organization, in my city.

Please talk about your special cat Arthur!

Arthur is my joy, I owe him a lot. He has inspired all my projects, especially the idea of post-wedding services. He is a very special cat, and we’re really very attached. He was a rescue and he was very scared when I found him. Now after almost six years we are one, I speak to him a lot and I am sure that he understands even when I am not speaking at all.

What do you enjoy most about photographing cats and cats with their humans?

What I always try to capture in the photos, is the special relationship that is created between the cats and the people with whom they live or with whom they have a bond of trust. They are moments of extreme beauty that excite and move me. What drives me and always gives me great motivation is the emotion and respect towards these animals

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C-AT Work – Image © Marianna Zampieri

How important is it to ensure that cats you photograph are comfortable in your presence?

It is the most important thing! When I have to go to someone’s house for a home-based service, it’s the first thing I make clear: cats must be able to do what they want, even not to participate at all if they do not feel at ease. I always bring with me objects that I often use in sets: they are fake flowers or other things that are well suited to be used as games to interact with cats in complete freedom and are beautiful as a photographic rendering. But nothing must be demanded or forced. When I go to Venice, I never know what I am going to photograph, it all depends on the cats I meet.

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C-AT Work – Image © Marianna Zampieri

Please talk about your current projects

The C-AT Work project features cats that live in workplaces, and it is a project I am still working on that is leading me to visit really special and interesting places. They are environments in which we are not used to seeing cats, so the photos that come out are very curious and funny. The environments are perfect backgrounds for photographs that create amazing images.

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C-AT Work – Image © Marianna Zampieri

In June 2017 I started with Cats in Venice. I live in Vicenza and the beautiful Venice is not too far from there, so I thought that I wanted to show the strong bond that exists between this eternal city and her cats. I wanted to work on something special with these two subjects, but I had to think of a way to do it.

I Asked Venetians directly about the cats that live in Venice, the cats are free to go in the streets (streets that we call ‘Calli’) and they gave me so many reports that I created a map on my navigator and I started walking in this magical city, looking for the cats they told me about.

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Cats in Venice – Image © Marianna Zampieri

But the most important part was that they always told me every cat’s name and something about them, so I decided to create a photographic project enriched with texts that explain something more about every cat I meet (I asked people or their owner), and I think that this is the particular difference and beauty of this project.

Cats in Venice is an extra special project as you are publishing a book

Yes, I didn’t announce it officially yet but I am really excited, before the end of March Cats in Venice will be published by El Squero Editore. This is a dream come true as I have always wanted to collect all the photos and stories in a book but it wasn’t so easy. Finally I found an editor that believes in this project and here we are! Before the end of March I will be able to see the first copy of the book and I am really looking forward to it!

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Cats in Venice – Image © Marianna Zampieri

Where and when will the book be available for purchase?

I hope that it will be available within the end of March and for the first print it will be only in Italian, but I hope to translate it into English as soon as possible. For all the people interested, I will post the way to buy it on my Facebook page Cats in Venice and on my website www.mariannazampieri.it.

What was the most challenging part of the Cats in Venice project?

The most challenging thing is finding the cats! I follow the reports, so it is not always easy to find the cats that are shown to me. And it is also difficult try to capture their interest as they are always very busy, so I have to be fast!

What message do you hope to communicate to viewers with your photos?

Through my photos I try to capture the personality of the single portrayed cat and their great dignity. They can adapt to any environment while remaining faithful to themselves. What I hope comes from my work is the total respect I have towards them. If this comes, I can feel satisfied.

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Cats in Venice – Image © Marianna Zampieri

Do you think your work can help raise the status of cats?

I hope so. I am going to start a new project inspired by some beautiful stories I found, where special cats became symbols of some cities, and I am going to take photos and information about them and share with everyone. I think we all can do something to make their life better.

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Cats in Venice – Image © Marianna Zampieri

What is the best thing about photographing cats?

The satisfaction that comes with it when you know you have taken the ‘perfect’ picture , to be able to get in touch with the subject and have grasped the personality. It’s not easy, but the beauty is just that.

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A Bride and Her Cat

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have your cat included in your wedding celebration? Not the actual ceremony of course, but something more permanent, and agreeable to the cat, that would last beyond the actual day and remain frozen in time along with all of the other wonderful memories. Marianna Zampieri, a photographer and cat lover based in Italy, started offering her clients this very service and the opportunity to share their special day with their beloved feline family member.

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© Marianna Zampieri

After Marianna included her own adopted cat Arthur, whom she describes as her “greatest passion and favorite model”, in a series of her own wedding photos her friends fell in love with them and soon started requesting the same experience at their own weddings.

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© Marianna Zampieri

There are no rules and Marianna never forces a cat to do something that it does not want to do. The photos are all spontaneous and the cats do what pleases them at the moment.

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© Marianna Zampieri

Marianna says that she can never predict the outcome of her photo shoots so she simply becomes a spectator that documents what unfolds. To ensure that her cat clients always feel comfortable she goes to the clients home and, by looking at her pictures you can clearly see that comfort as well as the deep love of the human-cat bond that exists.

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© Marianna Zampieri

Marianna’s photography encompass more than weddings and she has many wonderful galleries showcasing her different projects – currently she is working on cats at work and cats in Venice. In addition Marianna manages a Facebook page dedicated to adoptions and food collection for cat colonies in her area.

To see more of her photography, which I highly recommend, please visit her photography website and her Facebook page Cats in Venice.

*February 28, 2018 – update made, Marianna is not working on a project about stray cats and those who volunteer to help them, her current projects include cats at work and cats in Venice.

Wildlife Photographer Of The Year

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit, co-owned by BBC Worldwide and the Natural History Museum, is a competition that showcases the best of the best when it comes to nature and wildlife photography. For a second year, the exhibit is being shown at the ROM in Toronto and I made sure to stop by this past weekend before it closes on March 22.

Last years exhibit was pretty spectacular and this years did not disappoint with photographers of all ages and skill levels from around the world showcasing their talents.

Some photos make an impact simply because they are visually stunning and others because they also relay a message, reflect the times we live in or show us where we may be headed. There are too many to mention here, but I will narrow down a few of my favorites starting with the Grand title winner Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols and his ethereal black and white piece The Last Great Picture.

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Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014, Grand title winner, Black and White, Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols, USA The last great pictureImage © Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols

Taken in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, 5 Lionesses part of the Vumbi pride are captured as they lay on a rocky outcrop called a Kopje resting with their cubs, exhausted after having driven off the prides two males.”  What makes this image even more poignant is that it would be the last time he would photograph them all together. A few months later he learned that they had ventured outside the park and that three of the five females had been killed.

Next is Finalist David Lloyd with his photo The enchanted woodland and I have to say the combination of Leopard and Yellow fever tree is captivating. Taken in Kenya’s Lake Nukuru National Park this is a perfectly timed photo of a Leopard looking as if he was just waiting to be photographed.

Among the finalists in the youth category I picked The watchful cheetah by Leon Petrinos ‘You can tell the animal’s feelings from the look in the eye, the way the fur lies and how the ears move,’ says Leon. He particularly likes portraits, he says, because ‘the animal’s feelings talk to you’.

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Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014, Finalist, The Watchful Cheetah – Image © Leon Petrinos, Greece

Vanishing lions taken in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve by Skye Meaker another finalist in the youth category, gives us a picture with a strong message behind it. ‘I want the picture to raise awareness that lions are a vulnerable species,’ he says. ‘To me, this picture conveys the feeling that lions are fading from Africa.’  With fewer than 25,000 Lions estimated to be left across the continent, this young photography doesn’t realize how accurate his statement is.

Special Award: Wildlife Photojournalist of the year went to Brent Stirton from South Africa for his portfolio on how the lives of Lions are linked to humans in Bred to be killed which also highlights the practice of canned hunting. Hopefully having this appalling industry exposed through a mainstream exhibit will show thousands of people why the world has rallied to fight against it.

From the World in Our Hands category one of my all time favorites and finalist, Hollywood Cougar by photographer Steve Winter.

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Finalist 2014, World in our Hands, Steve Winter, USA,  Hollywood Cougar – Image © Steve Winter

For more award-winning images check out the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit online or in person when it comes to your city.

On the Trail of Big Cats

I recently had the pleasure of going to see award-winning photographer Steve Winter speak at a National Geographic Live Lecture series here in Toronto. If you are not familiar with his name, it is very likely you have seen his work including the images of Snow Leopards that won him the 2008 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year award.

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Masters of their environment and one of the most elusive of the big cats and rarest photographed – Photo Steve Winter

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The endangered snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is found in the rugged mountains of Central Asia. – Photo Steve Winter

I remember seeing these photos in Nat Geo and being utterly mesmerized by these intriguing cats and, hearing Steve Winter speak about the story behind the photos really brought them to life. Snow Leopards not fond of human company, made them the perfect candidates for use of strategically placed camera traps which helped produce these magical portraits.

Steve Winter’s “mission is to share the beauty of big cats while reinvigorating efforts to save them.” From trekking in India for Snow Leopards to working his way through the jungles of South America in search of Jaguar, he manages to captures the big cats in an unobtrusive way. For me it shows a respect for and love of the subject, as well as a commitment to helping preserve them by encouraging others to see a unique animal and story in each photo.

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The jaguar (Panthera onca) also called el tigre, is the largest cat in the Western Hemisphere and the third largest in the world, after the tiger and lion.  Photo Steve Winter

One of my personal favorite photos is of the famous Hollywood Hills Cougar also know as P-22 that was published in the December 2013 issue of National Geographic.

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Automatic cameras were set up for a year in the hills of Griffith Park to capture images of the elusive P22, the “ghost cat” that is the area’s only known cougar (Puma concolor) – Photo Steve Winter

Think of it: A large carnivore that must kill to eat is meeting its nutritional needs in the heart of greater L.A., all the while avoiding attention better than a camera-shy celebrity. How does he do it? By moving with a whisper-soft tread mostly in the twilight and at night, sticking close to thick cover, zealously guarding his privacy in a metropolis renowned as the gateway to fame.”

P-22’s notoriety did not end there however, in March of this year National Park Services noticed his mangy appearance when they captured him to replace the battery in his GPS collar.

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P22 was found to be suffering from mange and tested positive to exposure to rodenticides, commonly known as rat poison  – (photo National Park Service)

An update in May later showed the treatments P22 had received seemed to be working, many including myself breathing a sigh of relief. Steve Winter’s Hollywood Hills Cougar captured the attention of people worldwide and in doing so the photo created a deeper connection with this beautiful animal, one that would remain strong long after the cats 15 minutes of fame had ended. It would also be a vehicle to help highlight the cougars plight and just how deadly commonly used rat poison is to wildlife in general.

Finally, If you are a fan of Tigers, I highly recommend picking up yourself a copy of Steve Winter’s Tigers Forever book, his decade-long project to document the world’s shrinking but resilient tiger species. It is full of exquisite photographs and information, some of which you will see and hear about if you attend his lecture.

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“By saving the world’s top predators, we save huge forests, rivers, wildlife, and ultimately, our planet.” Quote and Photo – Steve Winter

“On the Trail of Big Cats: Tigers, Cougars, and Snow Leopards” with Photographer Steve Winter lecture series continues in 2015 and if you get a chance to see it in your city don’t miss it.

Wisdom Wednesday Quote

“Sometimes it happens that a black cat lets you pass in front of it.” ~ Author Unknown 

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Little Leopard

I recently had the pleasure of cat sitting my first Bengal named Myko. For those who follow my Cat-stagram feed you will have seen some videos I took of this handsome boy.

Myko was a joy to visit every day and he always had something to say (big talker). Highly intelligent and almost dog like Myko would follow me around and wait for his opportunity to sit on my lap, usually upside down. He is also a very curious, active cat and loved his supervised outdoor time in the garden.

The Bengal coat comes in a multitude of beautiful colors and some coats can be spotted, marbled or have rosettes.  “The Bengal was developed to try to meet that desire for a wild look in a safe way by crossing small wild Asian Leopard Cats and domestic shorthairs. Jean S. Mill began the Bengal breeding program in 1963, and Bengals today descend from cats bred by her in the early 1980s.”

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Spotted beauty

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Myko shows his beautiful profile and eyes

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Cuddle time!

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Belly rubs please!

The Bengal is a gorgeous, active, intelligent cat that needs lots of interaction and attention. Before considering this breed do your research first as the Bengal is not for everyone. If you decide to bring a Bengal into your life please check rescues, consider fostering and or adoption from your local animal shelter as they will turn up in the shelter system, either due to owner surrenders, abandonment or as strays.

My Little Panther

This week marks the 4 year anniversary of the passing of my cat Simon. Sometimes it feels like I had to say goodbye yesterday and other days if feels like a lifetime ago. Simon lived a wonderful 18 years, and maybe a little selfishly I wished it could have been longer.

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The Early Years

Simon was a very kind, gentle spirit who loved everyone he met including Spinner, a later addition to our cat family, and Cleo our Tabby cat who had no patience for him. She often walked by giving him a smack with her paw right on his face, leaving Simon shocked every time. He never retaliated however, instead he would sneak up to sleep by her side and even wash her problem ear as she got older.

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Simon washes his brother Spinner

Simon adored his brother Spinner and, after an initial hiss upon first meeting, they became best buddies. Simon was talkative, inquisitive and always wanted to know what the humans were up to. There are many fond memories of Simon during the holidays as he loved to hang out with guests and would sit at the dinner table like a proper gentleman.

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Simon enjoys a spot in the winter sun

Simon had green eyes and a pure black coat with a blue tint, fading slightly towards the end of his life to reveal a subtle mink color…and a few grey hairs. I always called him my little panther, for he resembled one perfectly in miniature, sleek beauty and grace. One of my favorite pictures of him above, the late winter sun striking his fur in such a way that it looks like he is shimmering.

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Simon helps me get organized. One the last photos taken of him

Simon brought years of joy, comfort and humor to our lives and even my dad, who wasn’t a cat person and called him Sparky, was very upset at his passing.  Despite knowing it was his time and that I was doing the right thing, I still went through all the typical stages of grieving including questioning my decision.

There was an emptiness and pain present immediately after he died, everywhere I turned there was a reminder of him and I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I painted his portrait, the only way I could express what I was feeling.

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Simon

A moment captured, Simon looking down and away as he was in the habit of doing when being photographed,  a wonderful cat with a wise old soul who will always be remembered.

One of the many lasting gifts Simon gave me was a love and appreciation for black cats, and with Black Cat Appreciation Day on Sunday August 17, I find it the perfect time to celebrate his life and spread the love for all the little panthers everywhere.