Exclusive Interview: Cooper, the Amazing Cat Photographer

Exclusive Interview: Cooper, the Amazing Cat Photographer


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I had an interview with Cooper's, (the amazing cat photographer) parent, Michael Cross. He shared a lot of interesting stories and facts about Cooper.

Amy: Tell us something about Cooper's "parents".

Michael: Cooper's humans, Michael and Deirdre Cross, are both filmmakers who live in Seattle. So it's only natural that he would take after his "parents." Cooper has become the latest member of their business, Cross Films, as the company photographer. Cooper's bio even appears on Cross Films' About page. Cooper is Michael and Deirdre's only pet, and he therefore receives every bit of their attention and love. At least until their first child is born this November, that is!

Amy: Where did Cooper get his name from?

Michael: We named Cooper after Cooper Lake, a beautiful place in the Washington State Cascades. My family has had a cabin there for many years, and I've always loved that name. It always reminds me of summer and warmth. Cooper came with us to the lake one time... and he didn't really appreciate it as much as we do. Why didn't anyone tell me that cats don't like water?

Amy: Where did you get the idea to turn Cooper into a photographer?

Michael: Deirdre found the collar camera online at Mr Lee's Cat Cam. This small company is essentially one guy in his garage who makes the custom cameras. He builds custom computer chips which make the cameras programmable. We knew we had to try it out with Cooper, as we really wondered where he went all day (as all cat owners do).

Amy: How does Cooper take pictures?

Michael: Cooper's camera is set on a timer, so it automatically takes a new photo every two minutes. It will keep on taking photos until the small battery runs out, which is usually most of a day.

Amy: How often does Cooper go out to take pictures?

Michael: We only put Cooper's collar camera on him once a week at most. This lets him be just a cat most of the time so he doesn't let his world famous artistic ego get the best of him!

Amy: Did you ever expect the photos to turn out the way they looked?

Michael: We really didn't know what to expect the first day we sent Cooper out with his collar camera. If anything, we thought we were just going to be analyzing data - whose backyards does he go into - does he cross the street (we hoped not) - and does he go inside anyones' house? Deirdre and I were stunned when he brought back the camera full of genuinely interesting photos. Some are dark and mysterious, some are beautiful and abstract, and some make us fall out of our chairs laughing! And that's how Cooper: Photographer Cat came to be.

Amy: Cooper seems so adventurous on TV. How would you describe his personality?

Michael: Cooper is definitely the most social and curious cat we have ever met. He doesn't hide under the bed when company comes over;

he walks to the door to greet guests! Cooper actually comes when you call his name. Every now and then he's in no mood for petting, and he'll give you a preemptive snap to make sure you know it. But Cooper absolutely loves to be part of family activities - getting ready in the morning, gardening, wrapping gifts (he can't get enough wrapping paper). Like a dog he'll even sit on command, but it helps if you're holding his food dish.

Amy: How many pictures has Cooper photographed so far?

Michael: That's a great question... I've lost count! Each day (once a week) he can take 200 to 500 photos. And usually three-quarters of those are extremely blurry (when Cooper was running) or pitch black (when he was napping, which is a lot), so I delete quite a few. After you have several hundred blurry and black photos, you don't need many more! But if I had to guess I would say between 30- 40,000. So it takes a great deal of time going through and selecting the best ones. And I want to make something very clear, for the record: We never alter Cooper's photos. They are never retouched, color-corrected or cropped in any way. We feel this is important to preserve the integrity of the whole project.

Amy: Where does Cooper usually go to get inspiration for his pictures?

Michael: Sometimes he'll come home with many more abstract photos after he's chewed on his catnip-stuffed carrot toy...

Amy: Do you have a favorite photo Cooper took? Which one is it?

Michael: We have many favorite Cooper photos. One is "Land of Adventure," which looks like Cooper must have been journeying through Mordor in Lord of the Rings. Another is "New Haircut," for the look on this other cat's face cracks me up every time. He's saying, "Cooper, you'd seriously better not be taking my picture right now. Dude. Can you at least wait until my fur grows back a little?"

Amy: What's the most surprising thing you discovered through Cooper's photos?

Michael: In the first few weeks that Cooper was taking photos with his collar camera, we noticed there were many, many photos of our front door. He would sometimes take 90 pictures in a row, sitting there waiting for us to let him in. This surprised us, as we thought he was off adventuring all day. So because of this communication we installed a cat door for him, and overnight he became a much happier cat! His subsequent photo sessions showed that he would come in and out, back and forth all day long, and we're glad he now has that freedom. We do lock his door after dinner, however -- it's too dangerous for him to be out after dark.

Amy: I know Cooper has been showing his work to the public. Is there going to be more exhibits in the future?

Michael: His current exhibit is at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago. This is a six month exhibit, from September 26, 2009 to April 11, 2010. There are a couple other galleries lined up in Washington State, but we're also hoping to take his show to other parts of the country as well. Ultimately we are working on putting together a book of Cooper's photography, so keep your fingers crossed. People can keep up to date with Cooper on his website http://www.PhotographerCat.com and by becoming a Cooper fan on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PhotographerCat

Amy: Does Cooper realize the success he has created through his talent?

Michael: Cooper doesn't seem to have changed from his artistic successes. But sometimes he'll watch me sorting through his recent photos on the computer, and I swear he gets a smug little smile as he admires his fabulous work!

Amy: Are any of Cooper's photos on sale? If so, how can we purchase them?

Michael: Yes - there are a couple dozen of Cooper's best photos available on his website. You can purchase them either framed or unframed. Each one is a limited edition giclee print, complete with Cooper's "paw-tograph" signature on the back. You can also buy Cooper t-shirts, sweatshirts and SIGG bottles. http://www.PhotographerCat.com/store

Amy: Have you given Cooper any special reward since he became known for his talent?

Michael: There are several treats Cooper enjoys after a day of photography. He is very well rewarded with salmon nuggets, Greenies (which keep his teeth clean) and freeze-dried shrimp - his favorite!

Amy: What's Cooper's favorite food?

Michael: Cooper usually has dry food for breakfast, and we buy him the natural healthy stuff. At dinner we add a little mushroom broth and nutritional yeast, stirred and heated slightly, and he simply devours it! For his birthday we got him fancy wet canned food - he ate so much he went into a kitty coma.

Amy: I see Cooper just had his birthday not too long ago. What do you think his wish was for his birthday?

Michael: I think Cooper wished for an aquarium. It would be great fun to watch, and he has a bottomless stomach for sushi!

Amy: Do you think Cooper is proud of himself? What does he think about his photos?

Michael: As I mentioned earlier, he does get a smug look on his face when admiring his work. Last week I was showing Cooper the latest video I shot of him and he was SO fascinated while watching himself! When the video ended he looked at me and blinked repeatedly, then rolled over for a tummy rub. Good boy, Cooper.

Chicago Exhibit

Cooper the Photographer Cat makes his Chicago debut! Come see his beautiful photos on display at the Nature Museum. Presented in conjunction with National Geographic’s “Crittercam” exhibit.

WHEN:September 26, 2009 through April 11, 2010

Weekdays: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Weekends: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

WHERE:Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

2430 N. Cannon Drive

Chicago, IL 60614 (View map)

COST:Museum admission: Adults $9, Kids $6, Infants Free

A portion of photo sales during the September 26, 2009 through April 11, 2010 exhibit will be donated to PAWS Chicago.

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