Cat Cheese, 2013. Photo: Tara Wray

I first saw Tara Wray's cat cheese photo at Photoville 2018 in a group show called Humble Cats and I've been thinking about it ever since. I've always loved the way the yellow cheese compliments that color of the ginger kitty and the pops of yellow and orange on the horizon, while the two strips of green grass almost perfectly fill the top and bottom thirds of the frame.

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I caught up with Wray to learn more about how one of my favorite images was created.

Who is this beautiful orange cat?

I wish I knew – it was one of the many feral cats and kittens that my aunt fed at her property. I’m guessing there were about 10-12 living there at the time.

I've always love the detail of 'Cat Cheese' written on the side of the can—who wrote that?

My aunt. It’s important to separate the cat cheese from the human cheese.

Where was this picture made? What was going on in the moments before you captured it?

This picture was made in Wamego, Kansas in July 2013. I was visiting my grandma and working on a photography project that eventually became "Come Again When You Can't Stay So Long." My grandma told me my aunt had a bunch of cats that liked to eat cheese whiz from a can. I told her I needed to meet these cats, so my grandma and I went to Safeway so I could buy a can of cheese (not the can featured in the picture).

Then we drove out to Wamego to see my aunt and her cats. We had a brief visit. We were just about to leave and none of the cats had had any cheese. I was disappointed, but, as luck would have it, right before we got into the car, this amazing scene unfolded. I quickly grabbed my camera to capture it. It was the shot I had envisioned when I bought the cheese. Everything fell into place perfectly. I think I took four or five frames.

What were you shooting with?

My favorite combo at the time: a Sony NEX-7 with a 30mm 2.8 Sigma lens. I loved the size of that combination.

A lot of your work includes animals, why do you like photographing them?

Animals are less complicated and more interesting than people to me. I never feel weird staring at an animal. And unlike people, who can sometimes be complex and guarded, animals show their true selves without any pretense.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to dive into a personal photo project? What's the best way to get started?

Stop thinking and start shooting. Point your camera at anything and everything that is interesting to you, and don’t second guess yourself. Follow good light and trust your instincts.