We have been admiring Fofurasfelina's stunning photography for a long time, and it was about time we fed our curiosity about the story behind Fofurasfelinas! Following is an interview with Giane Portal.
Q - You have become extremely popular with your pet photography and you've touched many people's lives with it. When did you start and what made you decide to get into pet photography?
First of all, thank you so much for your kind words. They mean a lot to me, since the main objective of my pics is show people that cats are just great! Life with them is full of magic, love moments and funny situations. I get really really happy when a non-cat lover decides to live with a cat after seeing my pics. It's an amazing reward for the soul!
About your question... long story short: My first cats were Goku and Lua. I adopted them in 2001. By 2004 I got my first digital camera and started to take pictures of them on a regular basis. In January I launched the fotolog fofurasfelinas (that means cute, adorable felines). In 2005 I moved to flickr with the same nickname. With all the visits to my flickr page and many positive feedbacks (for example, I got the Flickrs prize in 2005 for pet photography), I decided to buy my fist DSLR - I got it in 2006.
In the meantime, people started to ask me to use my pics for many purposes, like published material (books, calendars, magazines, greeting cars, etc) and lot's of of web stuff. Some pics were used for cat food packages too.
This year I finally could upgrade my equipment for top of line Canon 5d, and I decided to make the Cat Photography a living, since I love cats so much and people seem to enjoy my pics!
Q - Do you find it challenging to photograph cats?
Oh yes! It's challenging and exciting, in two aspects. The first, and more simple, is the technical one. As cats have a strong personality, they will do what they want whenever they want. It means that you have to change camera settings very fast to get good shots in different light conditions. Also, sometimes they get into places that are not that great for a shot, but they are doing such a nice pose! The expression is always more important to me than the technical quality, so I capture the picture the way I can and try to enhance it on Lightroom and Photoshop later to get a nice final result.
The second aspect is the personality of the cats. Although some of them are really social and easy going, I always try to find that "special thing" in the personality and capture that. But some cats are very nervous and shy... so they take lots of empathy and patience with their timing... I know that if I had the time, I could photograph almost any cat. But sometimes all you have is an afternoon in a client's house and it's not always enough. There are some cases that people say the cats is shy, but it's not really the case. They only don't like certain attitudes. If you understand the feline mind and behaviour, you can approach in a certain way that that cat is not going to run away from you. For example, never try to touch a cat before he or she approaches you. It's basic. Also, you have to learn how to read their eyes and body language, to see if they are relaxed or tense. All of this extra knowledge helps you befriend a cat and get better photos. One of the best sensations is to win the trust of a cat.
And more: you can't tell cats what to do in front of a camera, you have to go with the flow. And that's part of the magic of it.
Q - Do you yourself have any pets?
Yes, I currently live with 15 rescued cats!
Q - That's a lot of cats! What is life like with them?
It's crazy and funny! Every one has a particular personality, they have their own social structures, friendships, likes and dislikes! Most of them come from very different backgrounds and each one has his particular life story. Almost all of them get along very well, and it's really cool to see them interacting! They play together, sleep together in groups, and have tons of affection for us and for their friends. It's a delight! But as in any big family, sometimes there are some disagreements too. We hear some "fssst", but most of the time what we hear is loud prrrrrrrrrrrr!
Q - You are closely involved with the cat sanctuary Amagatos in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil? How did that come about?
Yes, pretty close. By 2005 I've joined a cat lovers mailing group and everybody talked about a very beloved lady that took care of lots of cats with her husband. She used to be in this group too and so some months later I finally met Magali, the owner of the cat sanctuary. My dream was to visit them and take pictures of her almost 300 cats! In 2009 this dream came true as Magali invited me with all expenses paid to go there, because she always liked my photographic work and she is a very supportive person. She lives quite far away so I never had the opportunity to go by myself since the air travel in Brazil used to be very expensive. This year (2011) I managed to go there again. The place keeps better and better!
This year, Magali decided to launch a blog for the sanctuary - Amagatos, and I am a direct contributor. We became close friends and I always try to help the sanctuary the way I can, through my pictures. Last year two of my pics were published in a English company called The Heart of a garden. I told them about the sanctuary and they send us almost a hundred cards as a donation to help the cats!
Q - Please tell us more about the sanctuary.
Well, it's like a paradise for cats. I'm pretty sure they enjoy it too. They have plenty of space, grass, lots of toys and structures. Three employees currently work for the maintenance, all supervised by Magali and her husband Cezar. They have regular vet care and some and spreadsheets to control all their data (vaccination, neutering, health, etc). Rosa, who coordinates the center, has special training in dealing with cats and gives them the prescribed medicine. The cats themselves just love attention! If you enter there, there come about 30, 50 cats at the same time, asking to be petted, given belly rubs, get onto you lap and so on. There are some ferals too, but even they have space enough to hide and find a safe place to stay.
As the sanctuary is a private initiative, they are no shelter. Almost all the cats there were rescued by themselves and pretty close friends. And it's a sanctuary, it's their home, most of the cats there are not available for adoption, so they just can't accept other people rescues. Sometimes people thinks it's only about the food, but it's not. They also have lots of vet expenses, employees expenses and emotional stress when a cat gets sick. So it's not that easy...
Today, the sanctuary is in a phase with lots of older cats, so the expenses are very high. That's why Magali decided to develop the blog, trying to sell stuff and also raise some funds for the cats. If anybody wants to donate something, there is a paypal account on the blog. Each contribution is very precious to these cats, and can make a big difference in their lives.
Giane has thousands of wonderful photos to share on her Flickr and on her website.
People are waiting to help.