Cats: loved and adored by their owners, inherent members of homes and society, their image frequently used in art and fashion, and often a favourite subject matter on social media. And it seems, there really is such a thing as a ‘cat person’. Cue Puss Puss magazine, founded by London-based art director Maria Joudina in 2014.
Originally from Moscow, Joudina moved to London via Germany to study at the London College of Communication, followed by an MA at the Royal College of Art, after which she spent some time working at fashion agencies before setting up the magazine.
But Puss Puss is far from a magazine simply about cats, instead using the appreciation of our furry friends as a springboard for atypical interviews, features and fashion shoots with renowned creatives and cat-owners, including Ren Hang, Chloë Sevigny, Cass Bird, and Tyler, The Creator.
Impressively, Ai Weiwei graced the cover of issue one. “At the time, he was living in Beijing and had over 30 cats on his compound,” Joudina recalls. “I wanted it to be clear that the magazine is not a ‘cat mag’, and is more about the people who embody certain cat-like qualities – and he certainly did! Once we got a reply from his team and were invited to go to China and meet him, I knew this idea had to become a reality.”
The website and biannual print publication, now in its eighth issue, is also accompanied by a Puss Puss creative consulting agency.
Why did you decide to make Puss Puss a print magazine?
I always loved print. My background is originally in graphic design so I love all the different papers, finishes and everything that makes a magazine into an object that you want to keep and collect rather than ephemeral matter. I think [the key to its success] is the people who are into the idea and have been supportive, and a big part of getting people like Grace Coddington [creative director-at-large at American Vogue] is that they love their cats, of course, and it’s something different from most other press requests they get. I’m extremely grateful to everyone who’s been part of this journey; a magazine is always a sum of all the amazing people who are part of it.
What do you find most challenging about photography briefs?
Most of the time it’s finding people we love and giving them total creative freedom. People would rather shoot editorial than commercial work because they can pursue their vision, and if you trust their talent it’s best to just let them do their thing because then you get the best results as their heart and soul are in it. I think you can often tell from the photos if the team enjoyed the process, which is super important. We don’t really have any rules or general practices when it comes to commissioning. You can tell pretty quickly if you have the same taste and then you’ve just got to trust the people you commission.
What are your first steps when approaching a new commission?
Instagram! I feel like these days, a photographer doesn’t even need a website. My rst port of call when looking at someone’s work is their Instagram page.
Can you name someone you particularly enjoyed working with?
Juergen Teller. I still can’t believe he shot two of our covers [Grace Coddington for issue five, and Agnès Varda for issue eight). It was a total dream come true, times two.
Would you say that Puss Puss has a visual direction?
Generally we don’t like images that are over retouched and don’t look real. Apart from that it’s not particularly something that you can put into words.