For the LOL of cats

If there’s one thing the internet’s good for, it’s pictures of cats. To honour the continuing phenomenon, a new exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery aims to lend the world of cat photography and internet memes some gravity, and attempt to bring it in line with the world of more serious photography…

If there’s one thing the internet’s good for, it’s pictures of cats. To honour the continuing phenomenon, a new exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery aims to lend the trend of cat photography and internet memes some gravity, and attempt to bring it in line with the world of more serious photography.

Cats have been dominating the internet for quite some time now in various incarnations, whether it be the famous box-loving feline Maru (show above), who is the subject of two books, or the ongoing cat memes, including cat scanning, cat breading, and cat shaming.

Cat Scan, 2008. Copyright Schotb. Courtesy The Photographers’ Gallery

Cat #1681, Lily. Copyright Kathy Bengston, Courtesy The Photographers’ Gallery

It turns out this fascination with photographing cats isn’t a new thing, and new exhibition For The LOL of Cats at The Photographers’ Gallery aims to show current photography alongside historical series. For example there’s The Brighton Cats, taken by Harry Pointer in the 1870s, as well as Thurston Hopkins’ photographs from the 50s entitled London Cats, which gives the cats their own captions, and seems to be an early version of the internet’s infamous LOLcats. One of the aims of the exhibition is to trace current photographic trends back to their original sources, mapping the starting point of many of the current memes.

Untitled, photo by Cooper Cat. Copyright Michael Cross. Courtesy of the owner and The Photographers’ Gallery

Cooper Cat. Copyright Michael Cross. Courtesy The Photographers’ Gallery

Nancy Bean. Copyright Christian Allen. Courtesy The Photographers’ Gallery.

The exhibition even includes photographs taken by cats themselves, including Cooper and Nancy Bean, who have both achieved some recognition.

Stray Cat, Kabukicho, 2012. Copyright Toru Umeda. Courtesy the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

The show, whilst feeling somewhat frivolous, does nonetheless pose some questions about what exactly photography’s relationship is to the culture of online memes, and how the two can evolve together.  That aside, everyone loves photos of cats, right?

For the LOL of Cats continues from today until January 16, at The Photographers’ Gallery in London.

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