A woman called Cat who takes pictures of dogs, wins a photography competition at Crufts

PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 May 2015 | UPDATED: 16:50 25 February 2016

Dexter takes the plunge with his toy pig

Dexter takes the plunge with his toy pig

Cat Race

A Preston photographer’s shot of Tinkerbell the Great Dane was good enough to win her a best in show. She spoke to Roger Borrell

The winning shot of TinkerbellThe winning shot of Tinkerbell

This year’s Crufts Dog Show was remarkable for many things, not least the mysterious demise of one of the canine contestants. But as far as we are concerned, the stand out moment was when a Cat won one of the top trophies.

In this case it was a young lady called Catherine (‘I only get called that when I’ve done something wrong’) Race, or Cat for short. The 29-year-old from Preston beat entrants from around the globe to be one of the winners in the annual Kennel Club photography competition, which attracts 13,000 hopefuls.

Cat took the puppy class with a remarkable shot of a Great Dane called Tinkerbell. The judges were captivated by this gangling young dog with a doleful expression and rather more paws than it could handle.

‘The amazing thing was that I hadn’t even gone to take a picture of Tinkerbell,’ says Cat. ‘I was just finishing off another shoot in Clitheroe when along came Tinkerbell and I started taking pictures. I knew as soon as I saw the puppy that I had to photograph her.

Winner Cat with PoppyWinner Cat with Poppy

‘I seized the opportunity. When the winning shot was taken, Tinkerbell had just begun to playfully stalk my chihuahua Poppy, who comes with me on some shoots. In fact, I sometimes use Poppy as bait to attract other dogs!

‘The winning shot was pure chance, completely spontaneous.’ A chance encounter, maybe, but there is no element of luck when it comes to technical ability and artistic flair as a glance as Cat’s portfolio confirms.

She started very young. ‘Dad was into film and photography and I did it at A-level,’ she says. ‘I also wanted to get a degree so I attended the University of Central Lancashire, taking a multi-media course. I imagine people thought my chances of making a career out of photography were pretty remote - not because I couldn’t do the work but because there is so much competition. But I took a year out to follow my dream and got a job with a digital studio in Preston.

‘I was doing family portraiture but found myself taking more notice of any dogs that might be around. I’ve always been nutty about dogs and go to lots of shows, taking pictures. At some stage I decided I should be a dog photographer.’

It seems to have worked. The business she set up with her partner Michael Higginson, Cat’s Dog Photography, has taken off. ‘We seem to work 24 hours a day so we are expanding by taking on another photographer. My dad’s really proud and the reaction to winning the award has been overwhelming.’

Pet photography has boomed in recent years. A recent study revealed that many young couples are putting off having children and buying a dog instead. ‘That’s true - they are a good substitute. People have pictures of their kids on the wall. Why not dogs?’ says Cat.

Her signature shots often include water. ‘It’s very hard to capture - it can be over in micro-seconds. If a dog likes water it can really inspire a great shoot as the droplets start flying.

‘Shooting dogs in water can lead to all sorts of interesting situations. Michael and I were shooting with a Dalmation recently. This was a very single-minded dog that wasn’t really interested in treats or the ball. The end result was Michael was knee deep in sinking mud and required the help of the fire and rescue to get him free!’

It’s a job where patience is a virtue. ‘Fido is not going to sit still so you need to be able to take your time,’ says Cat. ‘To be honest, I don’t want them to sit still - I want a dog that’s a bit nuts, a dog whose personality comes across in that split second.’

There are poignant moments in the job, too. ‘A lady asked to re-arrange a shoot because her dog was ill. We brought it forward and staged the shoot just before he died from liver failure.

‘We basically recorded his last moments. It was very touching and it proved to me just how important it is to have a memento of our dogs while they are still part of our lives.’ w

You can see more of Cat’s work at

www.catsdogphotography.co.uk

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