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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE TOY DEPARTMENT, 1913

Cat Wedding: 1914

Cat Wedding: 1914

1914. "Kittens in costume as bride and groom, being married by third kitten in ecclesiastical garb." Holy catrimony! Photo by Harry W. Frees. View full size.

 

Yeah, they're weird, but...

Animals who are being abused are in distress. When cats are in distress, their ears go back, their claws come out and they hiss. None of that is present in these pictures. They look relaxed and alert. If a bit silly.

Good Grief

What a strange time we live in for all these accusations to fly on such flimsy assumptions!

Herding cats

They say it cannot be done, but my #2 son who knew nothing about animal training taught our female cat 25 years ago to pretend to be shot just by endlessly making the sound of a gunshot but not giving her a much-loved treat unless she lay down very still and rolled onto her side with her eyes closed. To take it a step further, if he said "James Cagney," she would do an extended version, moving along the floor a bit, changing positions and finally laying motionless as Cagney did in many of his gangster roles. It was quite an extraordinary conversation piece but then she really did pass away at the age of 21 after a lifetime of luxury and rapport with our human family. She is buried in our back yard in her favorite shady spot under the cherry tree (and no, she wasn't just pretending to be dead that time). She was never mistreated and was a contented and affectionate companion with a brilliant mind, my favorite cat ever.

Trick photography?

This is purely speculation, but do you suppose that in at least some of these photos the animals' bodies are either taxidermy or artificial? It would be relatively easy to create an inanimate tableau and then have the live animals, coaxed by food, simply stick their heads through carefully placed holes in the backdrop. Notice how close the backdrops are in many of these photos, perhaps with a helper standing behind.

[No. - Dave]

Perhaps

My significant other--a crazy cat lady whom I share these photos with--brought up an interesting point: perhaps these kittens weren't photographed standing UP, but rather lying DOWN on their backs, with the camera positioned above them? As they say in the old cartoons, "Eh, could be?" If Frees didn't think of it then that is a shame; it would have made his work much easier!

[Not. - Dave]

Supporting Prop

The prayer book on a stick that is poking out of the backdrop is something for the preacher cat to lean on. As for those who say that cats can't be trained - tell that to a circus lion tamer.

Bravo! I Say

He had a vision and he followed through with it. He probably, maybe did something that was either wonderful or detestable. He certainly energized the Shorpy fan base. Frees your mind and you body will follow, or vice versa.

Although a different era

I can't help but think he had a special love of animals to make it his life's work. A lot people today dress their beloved animals in silly little costumes and as a little girl I dressed my own cat, which I simply adored, in my doll's clothing. Creepy? No.

I'm staying out of this feline fracas

But here is a shot of the infamous Mr. Frees

Freesian Factoids

His housekeeper sewed the costumes, and

Frees worked hard at his newfound calling in life, and ended up making quite a good living off of his silly animals- dressed-as-people photos. He borrowed his four legged subjects from friends and neighbors, and actually found them quite difficult to work with; for instance, flies were terribly distracting to cats, making for especially difficult photo ops, so he had to make sure there were no flies in his studio. He worked only 3 months out of the year. The rest of the year, he actually spent recuperating from his epic cutesy animal shoots, and meticulously planning the details for his next shoots. (Jason Harrington)

Yup. Creepy.

Having numerous cats and kittens, now and in the past, I can't imagine these weren't at least sedated, and that makes it not cute.

Creepy. Perhaps historically noteworthy, but creepy.

[Ill-informed yet entertaining. Keep 'em coming! - Dave]

Easy, folks

From what I've read, Frees was simply a VERY patient photographer. I can't imagine that these animals were drugged, and they certainly weren't dead.

Well, they are now.

Just for clarification

I guess until I saw the comments that some people still misunderstand what is going on here. These animals are very definitely restrained and probably sedated. I am no animal rights nut, these *are* just cats and dogs and by standards of abuse that many cats and dogs go through, this is a mild case. But make no mistake, they are wiring/tying/otherwise restraining the animals into these poses with armatures and the other props you can see. For at least 10s of minutes. I don't care for the pictures themselves, they seem pretty silly at best and vaguely disturbing even ignoring what it took to make them, but if you tried to do this today you would be on Animal Cops with your faced blurred out.

["Probably sedated"?? LOL. Nonsensical Comment of the Day! - Dave]

Really? What makes you say that? You know that kittens are not capable of standing upright on their rear legs with their CGs well in front of the camera as shown here. I am not sure how you consider yourself an expert on how the photos were taken but if you want to play "physics expert" you are going to lose.

[The "sedative" is a hand through the backdrop. - Dave]

Abuse?

Been researching for a little while the alleged claims of abuse regarding these animals and could find nothing confirming that the subjects were harmed in any way. Kind of surprising actually, as I thought the animals were wired into the backdrop to keep them from moving, but apparently he just posed them as best he could--they're very close to the camera--and squeezed off shots, discarding the vast number of inevitable blurred photos. Poster Cedar Creek mentions Frees committing suicide, probably to confirm his/her view that Frees and his work were both mentally ill, which I think is a misnomer. Frees suffered from cancer during the last several years of his life. Perhaps he got tired of living in great physical pain.

Kitty Karma Gold

Just wait till Reddit sees these.

Sorry to be a weirdo

But I have enjoyed all of these kitty pix, especially the 3 kittens in the pony cart. However, I am strongly repulsed by photos of chimps dressed in suits pretending to be business executives. Thanks, Dave, for mixing up the topics and tones of your postings so well!

Aw, settle down

CedarCreek needs to be a little more tolerant. I love animals but I also find these pics disturbing!!!!! But this is a "history in photos" site and these were part of a particular era. Just don't look at them.

Mona Lisa

I guess the Mona Lisa would also qualify as no social redeeming qualities.

I must admit I don't care for these pictures, either.

I just don't like to see animals in such unnatural (for them) poses.

No Foolin'.

They are really awful.

Disturbing pet tricks

These photos of small animals dressed as little human beings are far from being pornographic, and I doubt these animals suffered any long-term damage from being abused in this way, but I find this series of photos to be not humorous and definitely disturbing. Photos of human beings existing in poverty and children working in industrial settings have some sort of profound social message. These pictures of kittens in little dresses and suits have no redeeming social value whatsoever.

I hope the next cache of photos you run across are not of chimpanzees and orangutans being taught to smoke cigarettes for our amusement. We've seen enough of these already, so can we move on, now?

[Ridiculous Comment of the Day! Clapclapclap. - Dave]

Well, Dave, at least I'm not the only one who finds these dressed up animal pics disturbing. You've made whatever point you were trying to make with these. Let's move on to something new.

Take a close look at this particular picture. If you've ever owned a cat, Dave, you'll know that there is no way to dress three cats in little outfits and then get them to pose like that for the slow films they had in 1914. There's a very good chance that they are drugged and an outside chance that they were dead when the picture was taken.

If you do a little research, you'll find that these animal photos represent the entire body of work done by Harry W. Frees. He did this and nothing else for decades until he committed suicide in Florida in 1953. The animals were rented from various sources. They were not his own beloved pets. There were complaints about animal abuse associated with these photos from the very beginning. The cute little outfits were designed with internal restraints that forced the animals to maintain the pose until he got the shot he wanted. Not nice for the animals, but there was money to be made.

[Inaccurate, misleading, perversely entertaining! More, please. - Dave]

 
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