Walter Chandoha, Photographer Whose Specialty Was Cats, Dies at 98

Walter Chandoha, Photographer Whose Specialty Was Cats, Dies at 98


Walter began taking pictures with his family’s folding Kodak camera. He learned the fundamentals of darkroom work at the Lens Club in Bayonne. A $12-a-week job after high school as a photographer’s assistant in Manhattan further developed his photographic and darkroom skills.

After being drafted into the Army, he became a press photographer for the weekly newspaper at Fort Dix, in New Jersey, and then served as a combat photographer in the South Pacific. After his discharge, he attended the N.Y.U. School of Commerce, Accounts and Finance (now the Leonard N. Stern School of Business) on the G.I. Bill. In his spare time he photographed New York City street scenes, including some well-known ones taken at the old Pennsylvania Station.

In 1949 he married Maria Ratti, met Loco and graduated. His cat pictures won contests — in one case he took home a $10 prize from The Brooklyn Eagle for a shot of two kittens appearing to escape over a wall — and were seen in various newspapers. His early success led him to resign after three weeks from a job taking pictures for college yearbooks.

“We starved for two years, were happy,” he said in an interview in 2011 with Photographers Speak, a blog, “and although I did not realize it at the time, we were building a stock picture file that is still yielding today, some 50 years later.” He built an archive of more than 225,000 photographs.

Among Mr. Chandoha’s many books is “Walter Chandoha: The Cat Photographer,” published in 2015. A retrospective of his cat photography will be published this year.CreditWalter Chandoha, via Aperture Foundation

One of his best-known pictures, “The Mob,” was shot outside his studio. It depicts five determined-looking cats walking on his farm in Annandale, as if looking for trouble. “It was about time for dinner, and I called ‘Kitty, kitty, kitty,’ and all the cats came running,” he told CNN in 2016.

When they slowed down, he dropped to his stomach and captured their fleeting tough-cats-in-the-countryside moment.

Another popular photo, which was used for greeting cards, showed his daughter Paula, then 6 years old, smiling, her mouth missing some teeth, and a kitten perched on her shoulder.



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