This photographer is making waves on TikTok with his special models - stray cats

Many photographers enjoy working with models to breathe some life into their creations. But this aspiring photographer is honing his craft with a slew of furry friends instead.

If you're a frequent TikTok user, you may have come across some of Chua Wei Jie's cat photography on the video sharing platform

The 27-year-old, who goes by cweijieeee on TikTok, got a taste of virality back in July when his video of a stray ginger cat amassed over 105,000 views and 26,000 likes. 

He's since gone on to shoot more stray cats all around Singapore, and based off how quickly Wei Jie gets cats to cosy up to him, one may assume that he's a cat owner himself. Funnily enough, he isn't, he tells AsiaOne.

@cweijieeee how can people not love cats #catsoftiktok #photography ♬ original sound - typical chinese boi name - weijie

In most of his videos, he starts off by befriending the kitty by giving it pats and rubs before he goes in with his camera to snap some aesthetically pleasing pictures of it.

When asked why he isn't a cat dad yet despite his love for them, he explains, "I don't have the time and commitment to take care of a pet, and the last thing I want would be to leave my pet alone with no one to play with."

PHOTO: Chua Wei Jie, Instagram/cweijieeee

He also admits that starting a stray cat photography page on TikTok wasn't something that he originally planned — he had started his account intending to share photography-related content in general.

In search of a subject matter, he decided to start off with cats, simply because he is familiar with them. Little did he know that his first cat video would blow up overnight and lead to his stray cat photo series. 

And people love his cat photos so much that they're practically begging him for more.

"I have many strangers telling me how much this TikTok made their day and so, I decided to ride on it and shoot more stray cats," he shares.

The art of making friends with a cat

PHOTO: Chua Wei Jie

Unlike Wei Jie, some of us don't have much luck when it comes to befriending stray kitties. Most of the time, they can get skittish and end up bolting away from us.

Thankfully, he has willingly imparted some of his personal tips and tricks so that we, too, can try our hands at being cat whisperers.

To get stray cats on his good side, he tells us that he usually expresses his interest to hang out with them first. He does this by squatting or sitting near them while keeping a distance. Avoid making any big movements or noises so as to not scare them off, he adds. 

"If they come towards you, it's a clear sign that they are okay with hanging out with you. If they face away, you can reach out your hand slowly and see if they are receptive to it," Wei Jie explains.

He is also emphasises the need to "create a safe space for the cat to hang with you".

PHOTO: Chua Wei Jie

The whole process usually takes him around five to ten minutes. Once the cat shows that it's comfortable around him, he'll begin his photoshoot. However, he usually only has a 15- to 20-minute time frame to snap his photos. According to him, most cats tend to lose interest after a while.

Wei Jie also warns that not all cats are receptive to humans. He says that usually, you can tell whether the cat is willing to warm up to you within the first two to three minutes. If the cat seems against the idea, he won't force the interaction "because consent is key".

Turning his hobby into a full-time job

PHOTO: Chua Wei Jie

While it seems like cats are his only subject matter, Wei Jie is actually open to taking photos of most things — so much that he decided to turn his hobby into a full-time job.

Before picking up photography as a hobby in university, Wei Jie had already enjoyed snapping photos of his loved ones when he was a child.

Soon, he realised that this was something he wanted to pursue professionally and he decided to focus on making this his bread and butter. Now, he helms a wedding photography business called Still InThe Frame as well as a boutique studio and creative production house, Valo Creative.

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While he still loves photographing cats, Wei Jie says that he hopes to photograph other subjects such as those in marginalised communities.

Despite acknowledging that this won't be an easy task, he shares that he's had his own fair share of interactions with disadvantaged folks and hopes that through his photographs, he can "bring light to their situation and get people to understand their struggles better".

Apart from telling their story, Wei Jie also explained that he loves photography for sentimental reasons too.

"When I look back at these memories, I realise how important they are and I want to do the same for the people around me.

"As time goes, these photographs will become more important than ever as we age, or when people leave our lives."

melissateo@asiaone.com