Strays Cover

Portraits of kittens, with their big eyes and fluffy fur, compel the viewer to focus only on how cute they are. But photographer Arne Svenson knows that this isn't the entire story. In his new book, Strays, Svenson visually explores the dichotomy of shelter kittens who are simultaneously adorable and overlooked. He does this by capturing the homeless felines when they're looking away from the camera.

Svenson's project began at a feline rescue called AnimalKind in upstate New York where he photographed a litter of five kittens. He placed the kittens on kitschy fabrics, towels and afghans to create “cat calendar”-style backgrounds and started snapping away. The kittens, however, were still too cute. 

And then one kitten turned his head away, and Svenson knew that this was the shot.

“This was the portrait I wanted — a kitten who was more interested in the world around her than in me,” Svenson writes in the introduction to his book.

Strays features more than 120 color photographs of the kittens, and each copy of the limited-edition book is signed and numbered by Svenson. The book will be available for purchase on Nov. 1 at Siman Media Works. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to AnimalKind. Svenson is also the photographer behind Chewed, a book that takes a look at the toys our canine friends so lovingly destroy.

Vetstreet has a sneak peek of 10 kittens in the book and Svenson's stories behind the photo shoot.

This is the first kitten Arne Svenson photographed for Strays.

“I was taking photos in Maui for a friend who ran a cat-rescue program, and this kitten refused to face the camera. I thought the back of his head, and his posture, told so much about his personality that I made the decision to do an entire photo series of kittens looking away from the camera.”

The cat wrangler who helped with the photo shoot did such a good job distracting the kitty that he “didn’t even notice the frighteningly psychedelic afghan she was sitting on.”

When Svenson purchased the Monet-inspired fabric at a local discount store, the saleswoman did not believe that he was using it as a background to photograph kittens on. She thought he was making curtains.

“I wanted to photograph a kitten who appeared to be ‘at one’ with the background; this uniquely marked black and white kitten and the ‘flowers at night’ fabric seemed the perfect pairing.”

Svenson was captivated by the markings on this kitten. With his head bent down, the feline’s markings looked like a skeleton mask.

“He seemed to know this was his greatest attribute, as he never bothered showing his face to the camera.”

Svenson nicknamed this kitten Cyclops because when she moved, her spots looked like an eye with an eyebrow.

While Amber might look like a peaceful and calm kitten, Svenson says that just after this photo was taken she jumped in the air, spun around midair and landed on the wrangler’s head.

This kitty’s nose is in the air because she probably was not a fan of the gaudy afghan she had to pose on.

This kitty with “Batman” markings was one of five in a litter of white kittens with black markings.

“Running around the studio they were just a blur of spots; capturing them for the photograph was like chasing down hyperkinetic feline Dalmatians.”

"When we put this kitten on the background she didn't move, but mouthed off the entire time. This was one of her more pleasant expressions."