Deborah has lived and worked in New York City for over twenty years, working as a photographer, innovative artist and art gallery director. She began her career in Buffalo, her original hometown, and earned her first degree in Photography at Villa Maria College, where her work was first shown in public. She graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with honors and a degree in Art History. For the last ten years, she has been the director of a fine arts gallery in Manhattan and has continued to sell and exhibit her photgraphs.
Art and photography were Deborah’s primary passions for many years—until her heart was captured by a smart, funny cat named George. It was love at first sight from the moment they saw each other at the Humane Society of New York. She has since adopted two other terrific cats, Billy and Sammy. Her cats have become part of her art work as she creates colorful, whimsical images and more sober appreciations.
Deborah’s other favorite subjects are New York City, especially the amazing skies she captures as clouds skim the buildings, and travel. Many of her museum quality pictures were captured during trips to Europe and, nearby, while enjoying the views from her own windows.
Welcome to The Conscious Cat, Deborah.
How do cats inspire your art?
As a photographer I am an instinctive observer. I enjoy watching our cats and truly admire their spirit and endless curiosity about their world. I love to document their creativity, genuine sense of fun, and enjoyment of life. I’ve come to realize that it’s a reciprocal relationship-they are as interested in our lives are we are in theirs.
While cats are featured prominently in your artwork, you also photograph other subjects. What is more challenging – capturing cats, or capturing other images?
Both are challenging. My shooting style begins with observation. Whether it’s a cat image or a street photograph, I try to capture the essence of what I am seeing. My street photographs are created spontaneously. Sometimes I’m attracted to the mood of the moment. When photographing people on the street, I am usually drawn to a pose or expression that seems to tell a story. While shooting on the street I prefer to photograph my subjects while they are unaware of my presence and perhaps lost in thought or activity.
My cat images are usually inspired by something I have seen my cats do. I delight in watching them play and explore. I often joke that our apartment is basically Disneyland for cats as my husband and I frequently set up boxes, impromptu tunnels and tents and anything else we can think of to engage them. I’m not sure who enjoys this more—the cats as they explore these things or my husband and I as we watch them. I try to keep my camera nearby at all times so I can photograph them when they are cute or funny- but that doesn’t always work out. I often try to get them to do something again so I can photograph it. It can be a challenge to photograph them in the poses I want but it’s also part of the fun. The photo sessions are part of our play time and they have become very used to my camera.
What is the creative process like for you?
The cat images are created on my computer. Often one image is composed of many photographs. I think my images are very painterly as I love to work with color and texture. It takes a while to get the cat images just right as I want them to be colorful and interesting designs but also to portray realistic cat behavior. The cats enjoy our photo sessions but they do not like the time I spend working on my images on the computer as they are very much aware that I am not paying attention to them. Sammy will often walk across the keyboard while I am working and has been known to ad or subtract a few things from my designs.
With my street photographs I think I instantly know when I have shot something really interesting. I shoot digitally and will make changes in color saturation and exposure in Photoshop.
Tell us a little about your feline family members.
All three of our cats were adopted from rescue shelters. George was 2 ½ years old when I met him at the Humane Society of NY. His first family gave him up when a child developed allergies to cats. My good fortune, as Georgie has been the perfect cat for me and will undoubtedly be the cat of my life. We’ve developed a very special bond. When I adopted George I was going through a transitional period. I had some health problems and was dealing with a career change. George definitely helped me with his zest for life and gregarious nature.
George has always had an incredible desire for adventure. Dave recognized this from the start and began taking him for supervised walks in the long corridor of our New York City apartment building. I was fairly shy but could not turn George down when he begged for walks when the two of us were home alone together. The first time George and I walked in our hall, neighbors I did not know came out of their apartments and said “Hi George” and smiled at me. George, always one to push the boundaries, discovered he could enter a neighbor’s apartment if their door was left open for more than a second. Fortunately our neighbors have always been cat lovers who welcomed these visits. One night George, Billy and I were in the hallway together. We were near a neighbor’s door but it appeared to be closed. However, George noticed that the door was not quite shut tight. Not one to let an opportunity pass by, he stood on his back legs, pushed the door open with his front paws and bolted into the apartment while the door slammed shut behind him. I remember Billy and I looking at each other with the same sense of shock, both of us undoubtedly thinking “Oh no! What did he do?” Happily, the man who answered the door was laughing at Georgie’s antics. With George’s help I came to know all of our nejghbors, some of whom have become very good friends.
We adopted Billy as a kitten. He had been abandoned and needed a lot of reassurance. He has blossomed into a wonderful, confident cat. Billy has a very sweet disposition and thrives on attention. He is our most vocal cat and has a wide range of sounds, depending on the situation. When we travel our cat sitter tells us he talks to her and she tries to figure out what he is saying. Most likely he is saying that he likes his breakfast a bit earlier and that Sammy’s pouncing is driving him crazy.
Sammy was adopted three years ago from a terrific group called Zani’s Furry Friends. They rescue animals from New York City’s animal shelters where sadly, they are at risk from euthanasia due to overcrowding. He was skin and bones when he was picked up by the city but extremely friendly. The woman who rescued him called him Stretch because he loves to flop down and stretch out on the floor when he greets people. He is our sweetest cat, in spite of all the trouble he had in his early years. He is affectionate and playful and seems to really appreciate having a family who loves him.
Thanks for joining us on The Conscious Cat, Deborah – it sounds like you won’t run out of inspiration anytime soon!