Marcel has lived in Asia for almost three decades now. But it was in 2015, when he moved to Hong Kong, that he noticed something unusual in his new hometown. “I saw how many cats traders have to protect their goods from mice and rats,” Marcel tells Creative Boom. “This only happens in traditional stores in older neighborhoods and therefore provides a perfect metaphor for a dying world, a warm little tale away from the glitzy skyline the city is known for. And an excuse to photograph these places. “
In the years that followed, Marcel found his niche and began photographing traders and their feline companions in Hong Kong stores. For his latest series, Marcel traveled to various provinces of China, capturing many interesting images. From convenience stores and grocery stores to hairdressers and carpet stalls, it’s often difficult to spot cats among all life, color, and product, but it becomes a fun quest to try and find them.
His photographs also lift the shutters on a bit of Chinese culture, hinting at a world where traditional retail and street life merge. The trip was sparked by curiosity, as Marcel explains: “I wanted to know if it was pure Hong Kong or a more general phenomenon, cats in shops. So I started to travel to several cities in mainland China, about ten in total. I had more, others less store cats. But I always found some to photograph, especially in the old quarters.
Sadly, these traditional stores are disappearing across China as the culture and economy change forever. “It meant that I felt there was a certain urgency in this project,” adds Marcel. “Other than that, it was pure bliss to explore mainland Chinese cities in search of store cats.”
Now available in a new book, Shop Cats of China is published by Thames & Hudson, with each image accompanied by the intuitive haiku and stories of Ian Row, inviting you into cats’ innermost thoughts.
The series is made all the more special when you understand the luck and patience behind the captured images. “I often walk around for hours and days and wait for the ‘magic’ to happen,” Marcel explains. “Sometimes I see a scene and I really hope there is a cat to be found. And sometimes, miraculously, I spot one. People are generally very friendly and quite amused by the fact that I am showing off. ‘interest in their cats. This often results in the offering of tea. “
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