On the one paw, the spate of cats on the internet is what free-market capitalism is all about: We have more cats now than ever before, and in more formats, too. The abundance of cat memes today matches our appetite for them, and modern technology gives us both a depth and a breadth that was unavailable in the pre-democratic, SLR era of photography.

walter chandoha cat photographer
Image: Taschen

But on the other paw, perhaps the scattershot nature of our visual kitty culture has made us less patient—less willing to sit, as Chandoha did, for hours waiting for the perfect shot, the perfect expression. We no longer pause to consider the perfect beauty of the nameless cats of Instagram in the same way we devoted ourselves to Longcat or Grumpycat or even Cyancat. The fur has lost its sheen.

But on the third and fourth paw, maybe there is no tension here at all. The beautiful thing about progress is that it allows us to have it all: the silliness of Ed the Canadian cutie and the greed and bad grammar of the cheezburger lolcats and artful labor of Chandoha’s art. Just as Vogue and Vanity Fair continue to exist in a world of blogs and influencers, so too will analogue kitties live alongside their digital counterparts.

With Walter Chandoha. Cats. Photographs 1942–2018, Taschen provides a timely (and also heavy and rather pricey) reminder of the fact that there are enough cat photos to go around in all their forms: chonks, megachonks, and oh lawd he comin’s alike.

Moreover, what if the internet does indeed go down? Best to be prepared.

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