Linda Bohm, co-manager of this year’s Garden State Cat Show & Expo-New Jersey & New York’s Biggest Cat Show/Expo, chatted with 1TDC™ about her experience with animal photography, the Garden State Cat Club, and more.
Question: Tell us about your background. How long have you been working with animals? Where does your passion for working with animals come from?
Linda’s answer: Although I grew up with a dog and cat, it wasn’t until I was 10 and my mom won a Shetland pony at the local fair that I became involved in all animals—big and small.
A 25 -cent raffle ticket led to many hours of training with the biggest equestrian coaches in pursuit of the United States Equestrian Team. At 17, I had hoped to be among the elite riders, but my Dad’s push to seek a college education squelched my hopes.
In hindsight, he was right—I wasn’t Olympic material— but I took my knowledge and landed my own column at the NJ Daily News covering horses and events in NJ and became a contributing journalist to American Horseman—a great horse magazine at that time.
Question: Your day job is photography. How long have you been doing photography?
Linda’s answer: The opportunities mentioned above led to more focus on my photography with the assignment of covering horse and harness racing for Marlboro and Leo Burnet Advertising.
Question: Have you always done animal photography?
Linda’s answer: I didn’t want to become known as a “horse photographer,” so I set my sights on other subjects, both living and still life.
I suffered a back injury early after college and was unable to ride anymore, so I took up dog agility, which is similar to riding jumping courses, only the dog is not under your saddle. Training with world-renowned Diane Bauman, I learned much about animal psychology and training.
Through her teaching and training, I learned about animal psychology, which helped me even train mice, cats, and rabbits for photography.
By this time, I had adopted two cats and a Keeshond and started using them for advertising just because they were there. Mandy, the Keeshond, became the star model for an international eyewear company. I bought a pair of female brown mice to entertain the children I started shooting and also trained the mice not to be afraid of Harry, my rescue cat.
Question: What was the most memorable photo shoot you’ve had with someone’s pet?
Linda’s answer: One day I needed a quick entry for the most prestigious photo competition—Communications Arts—so I put my mouse on Harry’s head and we won with the most iconic image I ever took. This image, still my favorite, made the most money out of all the images we ever created.
I realized that together with my business partner, Gerry Marrazzo, we had a talent that few photography teams across the country had—we understood children and animals. The rest is history. Many campaigns later, we’ve used ducks, dogs, horses—anything with two or four legs has come in front of our camera.
Question: What else can you tell us about your experience with animal photography?
Linda’s answer: We won many international honors with our children and animal photography—one of which was being honored by Hasselblad Cameras as one of the top 50 users of their product in the world.
Our work was not restricted to animals and children—that is one of our specialties—we are generalists. That means that each assignment brings new challenges to capture the life of the subject. That concept holds true for even inanimate objects such as dolls and stuffed animals for Gund or cat and dog food for Freshpet and PetSmart.
During our career, Gerry and I have shot car racing for Marlboro, international campaigns for Lifestyles, food for Bed Bath & Beyond, and even heart surgery for major medical centers. We need to stay sharp and excited, so we seek out different campaigns to shoot.
But my career is not singular, and without my partner Gerry working by my side, I could not boast so much fun.
PetSmart was our client for packaging for many years and we needed lots of cats for their feline needs. That’s the chapter that got us into the cat world, both as supporters and participants.
For many products, we hired wonderful red Maine Coons from Brenda Flahault, the Garden State Cat Club president. She helped network me to other breeders for our photo needs. Then one day I needed a shot with two adult cats and two kittens. Advertisers, although somewhat more lenient now, oftentimes request cats that do not look like breeds, so we hired four Somalis from the Kimberlot Cattery for the job. It’s a lot easier to pose four cats that live in the same house—almost impossible if they are strangers to each other.
Well, that was the defining moment. One of the kittens—now known as Pippi—was up for sale and she never left the studio. It was love at first sight, and she is my heart cat to this day. Brenda came a few weeks later with another cat for a job and somehow convinced me to start showing my kitten and join the Garden State Cat Club. Well, that was six years ago—Pippi is retired with two CFA Regional wins to boast, and I have graduated to show co-manager of the expo.
Question: Animals aren’t always the most photo friendly. What tips can you give to help make for a great photo?
Linda’s answer: The rule of thumb is you need 2-3 people to shoot a picture of a cat or dog. One person has to be behind the camera, another person must set up the animal, and, ideally, a third person should be baiting the animal to wherever you want the animal to look. Shooting animals also takes special understanding and a quick reaction time to peak emotion. Add to that great lighting and a little craziness in our personalities, and you get great images.
Question: You don’t just photograph animals—you actively serve a nonprofit called the Garden State Cat Club. How long have you been a part of the Garden State Cat Club?
Linda’s answer: 6 years.
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of this organization as a nonprofit?
Linda’s answer: As far as I know, this is the club’s 82nd year. It is the third-oldest cat club in America and is under the umbrella of the CFA (Cat Fanciers’ Association), which is the largest cat pedigree registry in the world. We are a nonprofit group of dedicated members—some of which breed pedigree cats and some are simply cat pet owners. But we share one thing in common—we all love cats.
Question: What is the Garden State Cat Club’s mission and what are its goals?
Linda’s answer: The Garden State Cat Club is very active in supporting animal welfare, helping feline health organizations, and monitoring legislative issues. My co-manager, Janet Wolf, is on the board of the Winn Feline Foundation. Our club raises money to help fund research projects at Winn, as well as educate the public about legislative issues that hinder responsible breeding of purebred cats.
Question: In what ways is the Garden State Cat Club supporting the feline community?
Linda’s answer: We are a diversified group of dedicated people who are passionate about educating cat owners and supporting organizations that further the well-being of cats in our community, both purebreds and household cats.
We also support TNR (trap, neuter, return) organizations that track feral cats to keep the overall cat population down.
Question: Does the Garden State Cat Club only serve the New Jersey community?
Linda’s answer: No, we don’t. As an example, during horrible hurricanes across the country, we are active in arranging foster homes and financial support for those cats.
Many of our members are from other states as well. Will Wharton and Katherine Bock, who are responsible for the coordination of our many vendors and the actual layout of the show, live in Massachusetts.
Question: How can someone find an organization or expo like yours that is local to them?
Linda’s answer: All the events are listed on the http://www.cfa.org/ website, where you can find your local feline events.
Question: The Garden State Cat Club sponsors and puts on the Garden State Cat Show & Expo-New Jersey & New York’s Biggest Cat Show/Expo each year. With 2018 being its 82nd year, how has the expo changed?
Linda’s answer: I have only been part of the team for the past 6 years, so I don’t know what it was like before. I can say that we have been growing in regard to our reach to the community. While we have more vendors and more public interest, unfortunately there are fewer people showing their cats. One of the reasons is that the breeders are aging and we need younger people interested in breeding cats. The restrictions placed by legislation on breeders in both the cat and dog world have caused a great hardship in the industry of good breeding.
Question: How long have you been the show manager for the expo? What are your duties as show manager?
Linda’s answer: This is the first year that I am a co-manager with Janet, as you really need two people since there is so much work to be done. I have been involved in the marketing and branding side for the past 6 years. This year I am doing the branding, marketing, and show organization.
Question: What does it take to have an expo be as successful and have such a long history as the Garden State Cat Show & Expo-New Jersey & New York’s Biggest Cat Show/Expo?
Linda’s answer: A wonderful purebred cat competition and an excited, vocal public. Plus terrific vendors and activities for all ages. As an example, this year we have a very famous face painter, who is actually a fine artist, coming to our event. A new attraction this year is Kathy Pritchard, who brings 200 evening gowns for her breed cats to model. The public is invited to photograph them lounging on a grand piano. We also have a fabulous world-famous caricaturist, Steve Nyman. He is incredible and has done caricatures of famous celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg. In seconds he takes an image of a person or animal off a cell phone and turns it into wall art to be treasured for years to come.
For the youngsters, we have Noah’s Ark Cat Workshop, Feline Agility, and selfie cats to photograph.
Question: What can attendees look forward to seeing and learning about at this year’s expo?
Linda’s answer: There are many fun activities, as mentioned above. We’ll also have 10 wonderful cat rescue organizations coming with cats that need a forever home. Part of our goal for the show is to place as many cats and kittens as possible. But we also want to educate the public about pedigree cats and their ownership.
Question: What are you looking forward to most about the expo?
Linda’s answer: I want everybody to have a great time and tell their friends and family to come visit us at the expo. We are so excited to have our new lead sponsor, 1TDC™, who partners with our passion to ensure healthy and fun ownership of cats and dogs. Thanks to the generosity of other companies such as Interstate, who donated two billboards on the NJ Turnpike, and consumer companies like Freshpet, Hoover Vacuums, and many more, we are able to put together a great event. We hope this will be the best expo ever.
We’re grateful for the opportunity to speak with Linda about her animal photography experience and nonprofit work. With her help, this year’s Garden State Cat Show & Expo-New Jersey & New York’s Biggest Cat Show/Expo is sure to be a success!