Thursday, 17 March 2016
Cats Down and Out in Riga and Beyond
all pictures by Nico Baumgarten
How the Other Half Lives by Nico Baumgarten is a homage to Jacob Riis's exploration of immigrant life in the slums of New York . But instead of showing us the lives of immigrants, Baumgarten shows us the lives of cats. 'He goes there so we don't have to.'
So it's a kind of psychogeography of Riga (and elsewhere) as lived in and seen by cats. I quite like that idea. It comes with a text (told from a cat's point of view) which I'm not made keen on.
But the pictures and the idea is great and moves us beyond the anthopomorphic. It's a photographic version of the Secret Life of Cats - this was a programme that aired in the UK a few years back. It showed us what cats got up to when we weren't looking - basically going through other cats' catflaps and stealing their food. This is the same kind of deal, but in a very urban setting, with cracks in walls taking the place of catflaps.
We see the sheds, the openings, the cellars, the cracks in the walls where these street cats (and they are street cats that feature - proper feral, mange-bitten beasts)
You see their prey, the live pigeons and the dead pigeons, the opportuniites and the dangers - a bare alleyway, a dented pavement, a stretch of open concrete. And the places to hang out, relax and rest; a comfortable stoop, a puddle of water, a derelict building where a pile of bricks makes for a suitable resting place, an abandoned car with broken windows, a line of boxes.
There is also mortality in there. We see the corpse of a cat (and one of a pigeon to match), but that's the price for urban living, It's Riga! as we know it, all derelict and grey, but from a cat's eye point of view.
buy How the Other Half Lives Here.