1959 France: young girl holds her cat

This is a nice, historical picture of a young girl holding her cat while standing in a cobbled courtyard. Her mother is at the front door proudly looking on. The girl is very happy to show off her cat to the photographer. Her cat is somewhat bemused and unsettled. This is partly because the photographer is there standing over them and perhaps disturbing the cat slightly and, secondly, she is holding her cat incorrectly but no blame is attached to that because she is a young girl. It looks like the photograph was taken with a 35mm camera. In those days it was film not digital. Digital cameras had not been invented and neither had home computers.

Young French girl showing off her cat 1959
Young French girl showing off her cat 1959. Photo deemed to be in the public domain.
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The cat is a Van-type cat judging by the coat: inverted ‘V’ on forehead and coloured/patterned tail. This doesn’t mean much because these sorts of markings are quite commonplace in Europe and America. But they originate in Turkey with the Turkish Van cat which lives near Lake Van. That’s the story.

Another thing which strikes me about the photograph is how we have so dramatically moved on from those rather rough and ready, and indeed innocent days. I am feeling nostalgic. The picture shows quite a poor family but I don’t think that this was untypical. Back in those days people had much lower expectations. The throwaway culture had not emerged. People repaired clothes and machinery. They made them last. Fortunately this concept is starting to come back into society because people have realised that throwing everything away damages the environment. And people are more sensitive towards the environment nowadays thanks to global warming hastened by the coronavirus pandemic.

It is beautiful to see this girl smiling while holding her cat. She has no doubt grown up to be a cat lover living with a cat or cats. I hope that she is still alive, living in France perhaps not far from where this photo was taken. As the photograph was taken in 1959, about 60 years ago, I’d expect her to be alive. Cat food wasn’t around to the same extent that it is today. It had been invented at that time but I would expect that this cat lived off human food scraps, which would not have been an ideal diet but that’s how domestic cats were fed for centuries before the refined dry cat foods were made available. It is ironic that these clever dry cat foods are probably no healthier despite all the added ingredients that they contain to keep your cat healthy. That’s because they are inherently abnormal; they’re too dry and they contain too many carbohydrates. Not much progress there then.

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