Every year, hundreds of felines mass to the Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre (NEC) for the Supreme Cat Show – a competition organised by the world’s oldest cat registry, the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, established in 1910. It’s a visual whirlwind of an event filled with ribbons, trophies, proud owners, well-groomed cats and plenty of props; a grand day out, indeed, and one that enticed photographer Jack Kenyon and his mum within an instant.
“I thought the show would look great as well as being a fun day out,” Jack tells It’s Nice That. “Fortunately, I was visiting my parents in Bristol that weekend and my mum wanted to come along to the show – so she became my trusty assistant.” With his mum at his side, Jack went about the 43rd show capturing the wild goings-on from this yearly spectacle, forming his aptly named series Cat Worship.
“The lighting in the venue was awful, so I brought my own lights which my assistant (my mum) looked after. We spent the day walking around the event, looking for the most striking cats and owners,” says Jack. “Although there were many eccentric characters, everyone was wonderfully kind and welcoming.” Each shot is as vividly hued as the next, with the fluffy creatures taking centre stage – and quite rightly so, for this event is a legacy and, much like Crufts, only allows the top-tiered cats and previous winners to compete.
With the first Supreme Cat Show taking place in 1976, it has since evolved into a mammoth event for cats and cat-lovers alike. Judging is open to the public and there’s even a “meet the cats” section, allowing visitors the chance to get to know the different breeds. How it works is the Best of Breed winners go on to compete against each other – including Persian, Semi-Longhair, British, Foreign, Burmese, Oriental and Siamese – to then be crowned the Supreme Adult. Seven kittens can also be dubbed the Supreme Kitten, if they win, and a winning one of seven neuters is then named Supreme Neuter. Following this is the ultimate battle for the honour of being judged the Supreme Exhibit.
Move over dog shows, for the Supreme Cat Show is quite something of a marvel. Here, through Jack’s lens, we see humour and playfulness harmoniously come together with the competitive nature of human kind. And although first picking up a camera during his younger years, Jack is relatively new to his practice. “I started taking photographs as a teenager, mainly messing around with friends while doing an art foundation in Bristol,” he says. “There was a darkroom we could use, so I learnt to print and loved the whole process.” This, combined with a creative upbringing and encouraging parents, fuelled Jack’s passion for the arts and inspired him to continue taking pictures.
For the past few years, Jack has been working as an assistant for advertising and fashion photographers in order to deepen his practice and broaden his creative eye. “This has been the biggest influence on my work and how I think about photography,” he explains. “Outside of these first-hand experiences though, the work of William Eggleston and Robert Frank has always been the holy grail – some of their pictures are so fantastic they make me feel quite sick.” Moving on, Jack sees himself potentially travelling through America and continuing to take pictures, purely for the joy of the process. “It’s a doorway to places and people I wouldn’t typically meet, as well as an excuse to walk around and just look at things,” he says. “I think that makes for an interesting life.”