A.C.A.B. – All Cats Are Beautiful is the much-loved brainchild of Erasmus exchange student Maximiliane Wittek. The full project, currently still in progress, features over 300 photos of the city’s endearing feline friends. Being the cat lovers that we are, we took a moment to catch up with the aspiring photographer to hear a bit more about her work and see some of the photos for ourselves.
Could you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself?
I’m Maximiliane Wittek. If I’m not experiencing the vibrant vibes of Istanbul, I’m enjoying life in Berlin. I’ve been studying photography and video at Bahçeşehir University since last September. At home I do Communication Design at FH Potsdam. I express my mindset with a tendency of saturation, shimmer and glitches by illusive photography.
Where did your interest in photography come from? What’s your background and what do you hope to do with it?
At the age of 11 or 12, I started capturing my youthhood and friends. Thanks to my father who offered a lot of photo equipment, it came as naturally as playing with a toy. Turning 19, I tried it more professionally and made the decision to become a photographer. I always wanted to have my toy with me. Somehow I’m obsessed by the act of documenting life’s shoreless beauty. Collecting moments has simply always been my biggest passion in life.
Why Istanbul? What brought you here in the first place?
Two years ago I visited with a friend who was DJing at Kasette. We experienced lots of positive things and such a breezy vibe. While exploring Istanbul I fell in love with the city in those days here. I felt deeply connected, even from the first days. Now I’m enjoying intense times here and it feels like it was the best idea ever. Istanbul has much to offer for seekers. I found more layers than expected.
Can you say a bit about the project All Cats Are Beautiful? What is it? What’s the inspiration behind it?
Obviously — cats are living their seven lives in the city of seven hills EVERYWHERE. In my life there were always cats too. In Berlin, unfortunately you don’t see them on streets, so when I came to Istanbul, I was sort of freaking out about it! I started organically taking photos of them, as I did with everything in my first weeks here. One of my first photos of a cat I used a flash and I remember thinking how colorful the reflection in their eyes were. I started capturing more and more. It was just a natural output. When you look in their eyes, you can see they have soul and story-telling bodies.
I debated a name and of course ACAB — All Cops Are Bastards — became All Cats Are Beautiful as an allusion to the political situation.
Can you tell us a bit about the process? How many photos have you taken and how much work has gone into it thus far?
It has been really natural and started directly when I moved here. For six months I’ve basically been taking photos of them on a daily basis. I love to stop, stand and spend time with them. I can highly recommend it. We spend too much time rushing through our daily lives. So I consciously take moments of observing, laughting and exchanging heavy eye-contact with them. It’s a fun hobby. They always light up my day when I’m not feeling that good. They’re great! The process has seen me end up with around 300 publishable photos and around three times more than that in total.
Do you have any things that surprised or challenged you regarding this project?
I realized how hilarious, human-like and beautiful they truly are. Someone must have had a lot of fun creating them. Further I perceived how much I’m feeling connected to them. Miyav!
Do you have a favorite photo or cat?
Well there isn’t just one, so maybe it’s a bit like with men. You might have several types that you like. [Laughter.] Some cats I meet again and again. I’m enjoying our relationships. In Cihangir is one without a tail. This one is very special fluffy and recognizeable. Relationships with pictures are possible too. I might have a top five. One I love of a cat with one single eye. The reflection in her eye, looking into the camera, is the same glittery look as on my shoes and nails. I am fascinated by shimmery stuff, so it’s perfect.
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. As you know, we’re somewhat of an advice publication for foreigners living in this fine city of ours. Any hidden spots to visit, cat locales to check out or anything else you’d like to plug?
Cihangir’s Roma Park is my favorite place to catch the horizon. I do love the special view there over Asia, Princess Islands and old town. Best place to breath and clear your mind. But as beautiful as it appears, sometimes I have to laugh by the immensely produced noise of this crazy city.