Can you find the shop cat in each one of these photos?
Cats are a fundamental aspect of traditional shops in Hong Kong. They are an essential part of the life, business and the family of these stores.
The felines are considered to be lucky by their owners. While some are adopted and brought to the shop, others choose the shop that they end up making their home.
After moving to Hong Kong, Dutch photographer Marcel Heijnen began noticing this unique culture of shop cats who he described as “feline emperors of their own retail kingdoms.”
“In most modern cities there will be all kinds of rules and regulations against cats in shops. Not in Hong Kong, and I’m grateful for that. Here we can still witness this wonderful symbiotic relationship between human and feline, and the very reason for it harks back to why we domesticated cats in the first place, centuries ago: mice-catching and companionship.”
He began documenting the day to day life of a shop cat and posts his photos on his Instagram account ChineseWhiskers.
His photos give viewers an insightful glimpse into the local culture of Hong Kong as well as the bonds between store owners and their furry companions.
In areas of Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun, there is almost a cat in every local shop.
The kitties are great at bringing customers into the shop and lightening the mood.
Owners and customers cultivate bonds with these cats who turn out to have a “mysterious influence in boosting sales.”
“And yes, it’s about the cats. But it kind of isn’t at the same time. It’s just as much about the context; these chaotic-yet-organically-organized traditional Chinese shops that form beautiful photogenic subjects in their own right.
“Places in which time seems to have stood still, devoid of branding and all the other modern-day retail trickery we’ve grown accustomed to.”
Heijnen’s work is known to focus on themes of urbanization and impermanence.
His Hong Kong cat shop project displays local trades and vendors in Hong Kong who sell items like dried fish and rice.
A compilation of Heijnen’s photographs will be available in his book that is set to launch in October.
A pop-up exhibition organized by Blue Lotus Gallery will take place in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong in December.