|Katerina and LiLu in Russian photographer Andy Prokh's endearing frame|
He sees himself as a visual anthropologist. "I like to study people's souls," he says. So, he photographs them — young and old, musicians, brides, grooms and loads of nudes. However, Russian photographer Andy Prokh is best known for the black and white portraits of his daughter Katerina and LiLu, his British Shorthair cat — a hermaphrodite feline.
The series, simply known as the Child and her cat in the , began on the eighth day of the eighth month of 2008, when Katerina was born. "I took the when we brought my daughter home and LiLu got acquainted with her," recalls Prokh.
The black and tug the corners of your mouth and an inexorable smile stretches your face — there is baby Katerina and a podgy LiLu playing chess, a slightly older Katerina and portlier LiLu drinking milk, Katerina giving LiLu a haircut, she and LiLu mimicking a Soprano — engaging images that can make a hard-core dog-person want to get himself a cat...and a baby too!
The idea for the series, says Prokh, came from the subjects themselves. "They love each other very much. They are always doing things together. And they live under the same roof as me. I just have to press the shutter button to capture their togetherness for posterity."
Prokh dreamed of becoming a guitarist when he was young. He went on to become the at Sakhalin — a Russian island, one-fifth the size of Japan. Then for ten years he "was in public service — dealing with bankruptcy and other such things". It sounds mysterious and delicious. But for Prokh, "creativity over-powered". He took up photography, full-time in 2007. It was around this time that LiLu came to live with him.
Most of the photographs in the series are candid shots. No stand-ins; no double-takes. But when a particular idea strikes, then all three "work together to implement the shot". Prokh believes that cats are a natural in front of the camera. "I only have to take the camera in my hand and LiLu is rubbing against my leg and ready to pose." But LiLu does have moods swings too. "Then we simply wait — for the right moment," he says.
Prokh wants that people looking at these photos "become a little closer and kinder towards their kids and pets". Through this photo-project Prokh feels he has become "closer and more aware of his daughter and more caring towards animals. Also, each photo allows me to go back to my childhood," he says.
Prokh prefers to shoot black and white rather than because he wants to get away from a "certain sweetness" that is usually associated with cats and children. "Also, in BNW the emotions and moods are highlighted. It lets you to get closer to the subject. It is photographically pure." About the life-span of the project, the Russian says: "It will go on till there are no ideas or desire to make any more photos. But, I believe it will be an on-going project."
Photographer Andy Prokh is just another man who is nostalgic for his own childhood; just another father who wants his daughter to remain a child, a wee-bit longer; and unlike many men he is thoroughly in love with his tubby hermaphrodite cat.
First published in Bangalore Mirror