Arts & Events, Lifestyle

10 Minutes With … Carlyn Law, Cats Of The World Photo Exhibition – Tan Lili

Since its inception in 2007, the annual Cats Of The World Photo Exhibition (COTW) has gotten increasingly popular with the cat-loving community in Singapore. We spoke to Carlyn Law, one of the two founders of COTW, as she shares her passion for cats and the story behind the photo exhibition.

Material World: How did your love for cats come about?
Carlyn Law: My love for cats stemmed from our first cat Jarvis, whom my sister adopted almost 20 years ago at SPCA. He’s still doing very well now! To be honest, I was terrified of cats at first. I was glad I was in my rollerblades when I first met Jarvis, because I instantly glided away, not wanting him to come anywhere near me. Little did I know, the four-month-old kitten loved to play, and he started chasing me! After a couple of weeks, I got sick of walking around on wheels at home … and I succumbed to his charms. Who can resist a little cute harmless furball?

Meet Jarvis, the cat that changed Carlyn's life.

Meet Jarvis, the cat that changed Carlyn’s life.

MW: What makes cats special?
CL: Cats are special because they all have such unique personalities and they have so much love to give. They can’t be bossed around or conquered. Their independent, smart ways make them fun to study and wonderful to love. They are affectionate and make such great companions for young and old. Even my parents who didn’t approve of cats at first now treat our cats as their children. Plus, cats are so beautiful and photogenic – that’s why the Internet loves them!

MW: What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about cats?
CL: That they are aloof (not true; they just choose to ignore you), and that they are bad for babies or kids (in fact, when kids are introduced to cats from a young age, the former may develop a stronger immune system). According to the journal Pediatrics, researchers say babies who grow up in homes with a pet — namely a dog or a cat — are less likely to get sick than children who live pet-free. You can read more about it here.

MW: What inspired you to launch COTW?
CL: I began amassing a lot of cat photos on my travels. I also have many friends who love cats and we often shared our cat photos. Then I thought, hey, we could do this as a fun community project, opening it to the public and raising money for the Cat Welfare Society (CWS). We started with a small pool of contributors and partnered with CWS. And ever since, the number of participating photographers has grown to include people from all walks of life! I think COTW is a great platform for cat lovers to unashamedly indulge in our love for our feline fans and go gaga over the photos.

MW: Please share your absolute favourite photo from the exhibition.
CL: Oh my, it’s so hard to pick one! I love all of them and there are so many that we couldn’t exhibit (sorry guys!). If I have to pick one, it has to be “Watching & Hoping”, taken by my friend Christopher Tan in Istanbul, Turkey. It was featured in the first exhibition in 2007. The timing of the photo is purrfect as the cat watched and hatched a plot to go after a fish which came up for breath.

Watching & Hoping, by Christopher Tan

Watching & Hoping, by Christopher Tan

MW: So how did Purrzaar come about?
CL: We were selling the cat photos all along to raise money for CWS and made them into postcards and magnets. We also invited CWS to have a booth so they could sell their merchandise to raise funds and also educate people on the welfare of our community cats. Then people started approaching us to rent a stall because they have many quirky cat-themed merchandise to sell. Most of them are also made by local artists and designers so we thought it would be a great idea to expand the concept and support our local community of artists! They are also cat lovers and are more than happy to donate part of their proceeds to raise money for CWS – for which we are very thankful. It’s not about making money but finding a cause to connect people and creating an outlet for them to showcase their creativity.

MW: What are some of the challenges you face organising COTW and Purrzaar?
CL: It is a challenge even though it is an annual affair! Noelle and I run a PR agency (along with two other partners) and, on top of our workload, we handle the publicity for COTW and  curate the exhibition and liaise with the contributors, venue operator, and Purrzaar vendors. It won’t be possible without our sponsors since this is a non-profit project. Our sponsors include PurplePixel, who sponsored the postcards for the last few years; Scissors Paper Stone, who sponsored the printing of photos for the exhibition this year; Fancy Feast, who sponsored the goodie bags for the Purrzaars; and, of course, Material World, for being our media partner this time!

MW: Can we expect another COTW and Purrzaar next year?
CL: We hope so, as long as people love it and will support our cause! We try to make it interesting by injecting new elements every year. For example, last year we introduced a literary aspect where famous cat lovers like Goh Boon Teck, Karen Tan, Alfian Sa’at, and Irene Ang contributed proses, poems and short stories about cats. This year, we have created an Instagram cat-egory, which has proven to be extremely popular! All year round, cat lovers can also share their photos by hashtagging #catsoftheworldphotoexhibition and we will share some of the pictures on our Facebook page too. It’s all about sharing!

Carlyn Law, aka Carla, is mummy to four cats – Jarvis, Mimi, Lola and Lucia. They are all adopted and rescued. Cats Of The World Photo Exhibition will be held from August 1-29, 2013, at The Arts House. This year, due to the amazing response, there will be three Purrzaar markets held over three Saturdays – August 3, 10 and 17 – from 11am to 6pm. Rental proceeds go to CWS.

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as (now, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets

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