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Creepy Cat Portraits in The Early 1900’s

During the 1870s, the Brighton photographer Harry Pointer (1822-1889) became well known for a series of carte-de-visite photographs which featured his pet cats. Pointer began by taking conventional photographs of cats resting, drinking milk or sleeping in a basket, but from around 1870 he specialised in photographing cats in a variety of poses, placing his cats in settings that would create a humorous or appealing picture. Pointer often arranged his cats in unusual poses that mimicked human activities – a cat riding a tricycle, cats roller-skating and even a cat taking a photograph with a camera.

Harry Pointer soon realised that even a relatively straight-forward cat photograph could be turned into an amusing or appealing image by adding a written caption. Pointer increased the commercial potential of his cat pictures by adding a written greeting such as “A Happy New Year” or “Very many happy returns of the day”. Purchasers sent the small cartes-de-visite as tiny greetings cards, thereby publicizing Pointer’s distinctive cat photographs. By 1872, Harry Pointer had created over one hundred different captioned images of cats. Harry Pointer’s series of cat photographs were collectively known as “The Brighton Cats“. The Photographic News reported that, by 1884, Pointer had published about two hundred pictures in “The Brighton Cats” series. And here are just a few:

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