Marcel Heijnen has produced a beautiful photo book of the shop cats of China. I can appreciate good photography. These photographs have quite a subdued, passive and painterly appearance. The cats are often static and quite decorative. The people seem frozen in time. The interiors of the shops are intricate and complicated. Shopkeepers form part of the ‘mural’ packed full of detail. The cats are clearly fully integrated into the lives of these people. It is wonderful to see shop cats because I regard them as working cats. I love working cats because the domestic cat is too often criticised for being, on the one hand, decorative and a companion, and on the other hand, a predator of wildlife. It’s an image which can be criticised by people who dislike domestic cats.
So here we have some wonderful working cats in these intricate shops and it is good to see domestic cats being well treated in China because on the subject of image and beliefs, most of the information coming out of China regarding cats is negative because of their cat meat and dog meat markets. To which you can add cat and dog fur. I won’t go on but these are brutal businesses and the victims are the innocent animals. It is time to stop these activities and I desperately wish that the international community would put some pressure on China to achieve this goal.
I’m digressing because Marcel Heijnen is an excellent photographer. He takes compelling photographs. You see the traditional retail activities of the Chinese decorated by Chinese domestic cats. It is nice to see these cats because they are slightly different to the domestic cats in America, the UK and in Europe.
In his book, “Shop Cats of China”, available on Amazon from 16 September 2021 as I understand it, the narrative I believe is written by Ian Row. The Amazon description is, “Meanwhile, Ian Row’s intuitive haiku stories invite you into the cats’ innermost thoughts – sometimes catty, sometimes sweet, but always with a whisker or two of love.”
Marcel Heijnen is a graphic designer and a musician as well as a photographer. He created a similar book about the shop cats of Hong Kong. In fact, he has published multiple books in the Chinese Whiskers and the Residue series and he has had multiple solo exhibitions.
He’s Dutch and has lived in Singapore where he had a design studio and art café. He now lives in Hong Kong. There is a pod cast interview by a guy called Choy on the Internet that you can listen to by clicking on this link.
Heijnen also has an Instagram account which you can access by clicking on this link. It features his photographs. As mentioned, they are very evocative. They do provide an insight into what it feels like to be living in China. That is probably the best compliment you can pay this photographer. They truly convey a feeling.
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