Paris in July 2018 – Willy Ronis’ Cats – Les Chats de Willy Ronis

I always try to participate in Thyme for Tea’s Paris in July event but I don’t always get the time. This year, time was just as scarce and so I was glad the event has been extended. I decided to participate with a beautiful book I discovered a while ago in a book shop: Les chats – The Cats by Willy Ronis.

The book has not been translated but since there’s only a short intro and the rest are photos, any cat or photography lover could enjoy this.

Willy Ronis, who lived from 1910 to 2009, was a French photographer who was famous for his post-war pictures of some of the lesser known Parisian districts like Ménilmontant and Belleville. Together with Brassaï, Doisneau, and Cartier-Bresson, he is one of the most important French photographers of his time, and by many called the most important Paris photographer.

Ronis was also known for his nudes, one of which you can see below, and for his love of cats. His cat photos have such a special charm. They come in so many variations. Close-up photos of his own cats, cats in landscapes, cats he saw on travels. All of his photos are black and white. They are simple and effortless, but when you look at them for a while you discover many charming details and you simply have to admire his compositions and his use of light and shadow.

The nude above, which shows his wife, is one of his most famous photos. I guess that’s why it was included in the picture although there’s no cat on it. The book also offers an intimate look at his family life. Many of the photos show his wife and son, together with a cat.

After the war, Ronis lived and taught  in the South of France, that’s why there are many photos in the book that haven’t been taken in Paris.

I’m sure this is a book that would appeal to many people, whether they love cats or photography. His delicate use of light and shadow alone transforms every picture into a work of art.

Here’s an interesting article from April 2018 in the New York Times about Ronis.

And there’s an exhibition of his work at the Pavillon Carré de Baudoin, which lasts until September.

21 thoughts on “Paris in July 2018 – Willy Ronis’ Cats – Les Chats de Willy Ronis

    • That is perfect timing. 🙂
      I was so surprised when I saw this at the book shop and had to have it right away. Taking good pictures of cats is so difficult. Often it just looks too sweet or they move at the wrong moment but he captured so many nice poses. I really like that some of the landscapes or village streets only come to life because of the cats in it.

  1. Beautiful! Like Guy, I had never heard of him, so thank you for the introduction. (That said, I am familiar with that photo of the nude as it appears on the cover of one of the UK editions of Michael Ondaatje’s book The English Patient – it’s a very recognisable image!)

    A couple of friends of mine are fans of Cartier-Bresson’s work, and I’m sure this book would appeal to them too – the focus on cats definitely fits with their interests.

    • How interesting that they used that image as a cover. It is indeed very recognizable.
      I think this would definitely appeal to your friends. It’s a winning combination.

  2. I hadn’t heard of him. I liked this post so much I logged into the library and found two books about him and have placed both on hold. Thank you for sharing. I’m in a photo club and I try to learn about well known photographers from around the world. Another one to tick off the list🤠🐧

    • I’m so glad to hear it. At first, I wasn’t sure whether I should write about it. Now I’m glad I did. Your photo club sounds great. Do share your favourite photographers. I’d love to know who they are.

  3. Pictures really do speak 1000 words. His love of cats is clear in his photos. I particularly like the contrasting light and dark, the pensive cat framed by traditional french architecture. If I had the chance (not likely) I would make the trip to visit the Pavillon Carré de Baudoin,Thanks for joining Paris in July again – nice to have you back !

    • Hi Tamara. I wish I could have participated more. It’s one of my favourite events.
      I agree, you can see how much he loves cats. They’re all such natural photos.

  4. Wow, what a perfect book—not only for July in Paris, but also for Beauty is a Sleeping Cat! I love the photos you’ve posted from this book, and I think this would be a great one to browse through.

  5. Pingback: Winding Up the Week #29 – Book Jotter

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