Many photographers enjoy working with models to bring their creations to life. But this aspiring photographer hones his craft with a number of furry friends instead.
If you’re a frequent TikTok user, you may have come across some of Chua Wei Jie’s cat photos on the video platform
The 27-year-old, known on TikTok as cweijieeee, got a taste of virality back in July when his video of a stray ginger cat garnered over 105,000 views and 26,000 likes.
Since then, he has shot more stray cats across Singapore, and based on how quickly Wei Jie gets cats cuddling up to him, one can assume he is a cat owner himself. Funnily enough, he isn’t, he tells AsiaOne.
@cweijieeee how can people not love cats #catsoftiktok #photography ♬ Original sound – typical Chinese boi name – weijie
In most of his videos, he begins by making friends with the kitten by patting and rubbing it before going inside with his camera to snap some aesthetically pleasing pictures of it.
When asked why he’s not yet a cat father despite his love for them, he explains, “I don’t have the time and commitment to look after a pet and the last thing I want is my pet alone not to let anyone play with. “
He also admits that he hadn’t originally planned on opening a stray cat photography site on TikTok – he set up his account to share photography-related content in general.
In search of a subject, he decided to start with cats simply because he was familiar with them. Little did he know that his first cat video would explode overnight and lead to his stray cat photo series.
And people love his cat photos so much that they practically ask him for more.
“I have a lot of strangers telling me how much this TikTok made their day sweeter, so I decided to ride on it and shoot more stray cats,” he shares.
The art of making friends with a cat
Unlike Wei Jie, some of us aren’t very lucky when it comes to making friends with stray kittens. Most of the time, they can get nervous and end up running away from us.
Fortunately, he was happy to pass on some of his personal tips and tricks so that we too can try our hand at cat whisperers.
To get stray cats on his good side, he tells us that he usually shows his interest in hanging out with them first. He does this by crouching or sitting next to them while keeping their distance. Avoid making large movements or making noises so as not to scare them off, he adds.
“When they approach you, it is a clear sign that they are okay with hanging out with you. When they turn away, you can slowly reach out your hand and see if they are receptive, ”explains Wei Jie.
He also stresses the need to “make a safe place for the cat to hang out with you”.
The entire process usually takes about five to ten minutes. As soon as the cat shows that it feels comfortable around it, it begins the photo shoot. However, he usually only has 15 to 20 minutes to take his photos. According to him, most cats have a tendency to lose interest over time.
Wei Jie also warns that not all cats are susceptible to humans. He says that usually within the first two to three minutes you can tell if the cat is ready to warm up with you. If the cat seems against the idea, it won’t force the interaction “because consent is key”.
Turning your hobby into a full-time job
While it seems like cats are his only subject, Wei Jie is actually open to taking pictures of most things – so much so that he decided to turn his hobby into a full-time job.
Before Wei Jie started taking photos as a hobby at university, he had already enjoyed taking photos of loved ones as a child.
He soon realized that he wanted to pursue this professionally and decided to focus on making this his bread and butter. He now runs a wedding photography company called Still InThe Frame and a boutique studio and creative production house, Valo Creative.
Although he still loves to photograph cats, Wei Jie hopes to photograph other subjects, such as in marginalized communities.
While acknowledging that this will not be an easy task, he shares that he has had his own fair share of interactions with disadvantaged people and hopes that through his photographs he can “shed light on their situation and make people theirs To understand struggles better ”. .
Aside from telling her story, Wei Jie also stated that he loves photography for sentimental reasons too.
“When I look back on these memories, I realize how important they are and I want to do the same for the people around me.
“Over time, these photographs become more important than ever as we get older or as people leave our lives.”