Harry Pointer – The original LOLcats

Harry Pointer – The original LOLcats

What was the world of funny and silly animal photographs like before LOLcats? Harry Pointer (1822-1889) was a photographer from Brighton who began his career taking naturalistic photographs of cats.  Later on he became well-known for experimenting with creative, hilarious photographs featuring his cats. In the beginning, Pointer was only taking photos of his cats resting, drinking milk, sleeping in baskets. But from 1870, he started taking photographs of his cats posing in hilarious ways, doing more human-like poses, from a cat riding a tricycle, cats roller-skating, a cat taking photographs with a camera and more. He took it to the next level of pre-LOLcats concept by adding a caption under the photos like “A Happy New Year”, “Happy Moments”, “Five o’clock tea”, etc. Pointer was most well known for a series of 200 photographs collectively known as “The Brighton Cats”.

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Harry Pointer with three of his cats, photographed at Harry Pointer’s photographic studio on Bloomsbury Place, Brighton 1880 

Harry Pointer’s Brighton Cats series of novelty “cartes” proved popular with the public and were appreciated by writers on photography. The Art-Journal of 1876 commented on Harry Pointer’sextraordinary ability in posing his pet cats : An eminent photographer has produced a series of cartes that cannot fail to be very popular…It was a good idea so to train a number of cats as to make them excellent, attentive and obedient ‘sitters’ …it seems as if each knew precisely what he wanted, is gentle or fierce, or listless or eager, or docile or angry, according to the character depicted” [The Art-Journalof 1876, page 374 ]

Harry Pointer – The Brighton Cats

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The Photographer (left), Five o’clock tea (right) from The Brighton Cats series

 

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Unknown (Left), Bring up the dinner Betsy (Right) from the Brighton Cats series

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Cat sitting on a tricycle, Unknown (left), Kitty sitting in a mixing bowl, Unknown (right) from The Brighton Cats series

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Bought unknown, from the Brighton Cats series

 

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Bought unknown, from the Brighton Cats series

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Miss Tabby at the Rink (Left) and Rinking at Brighton (Right) both from The Brighton Cats series

It was exciting to learn more about the funny photographs of cats that pre-dates the internet. We didn’t realise that it all began as far back as 19th century. On the second installment of this article, we will visit Harry Whittier Frees – another photographer who used a gentle approach to get even more hilarious animal photos which are what we believe to be prototype-LOLcats.

VIA Photohistory-Sussex, IO9

 

 

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