Steve B gets fashion photography. The 7 year old knows how to strut his stuff. How to switch poses in between shots. If you have a camera and don’t take a picture of him, he’ll throw a hissy fit.
There’s only one thing: Steve B is a cat.
Steve B came from the first litter of kittens fashion photographer Kristiina Wilson fostered. He was raised around models and photographers. And now, he just knows what to do when the camera’s trained on him.
“Maybe it’s from watching people in the studio,” Wilson says. “Or maybe he just likes the attention.”
Steve B, his mom, and his 10 brothers and sisters are just a few of the hundreds of cats and kittens Wilson has fostered over the years.
By now, all her friends have at least two cats from her. Her parents, the same ones who wouldn’t let her have a cat as a kid because they claimed to be allergic, have five.
The cats have been placed with models and celebrities. They’ve gone on to appear in fashion editorials. One even had a cameo in a music video.
Wilson’s A-list friends help her find forever homes for her fosters and rescues. So do her thousands of social media followers. On her Instagram feed, you’ll see shots of orphaned kittens alongside photos of models and designer duds. She uses the platform to find homes, connect with rescue groups, and help others who want to foster animals.
“It’s a lot of work but it’s so nice to nurture and take care of other living things,” she says. “It’s nice to give something back instead of worrying about myself or my job.”
Wilson got her start as a fine art and documentary photographer, doing gallery shows in the late 1990s. She realized the work wouldn’t pay her bills, so she eased into fashion photography. Spoiler alert: it’s not as sexy as it sounds.
“People think working in fashion is so glamorous,” she says. “But in reality, you’re just sitting around in sweatpants, listening to 90s hip hop, eating a sandwich and waiting 10 hours for a celebrity to show up.”
Her work has appeared in magazines like GQ Japan and Esquire Korea. A year ago, she helped start a nonprofit called You Do You, which tries to push the fashion industry to be more inclusive, regardless of age, gender and ability.
As Wilson’s photography career grew, so did her rescue work. It all started when she came back to the U.S. after completing her master’s degree in Finland. Her parents (the same ones with the supposed allergy) had fallen in love with the cat she had asked them to watch while she was attending classes and wanted to keep it.
She wasn’t ready to commit to having a pet full time yet so she reached out to local high kill shelters and volunteered to help socialize feral cats. Helping skittish felines fit in in the world just felt natural.
“Sometimes I think I bond a little more with animals than I do with people,” she says.
Today she and her girlfriend have eight cats. There’s Steve B, who was named after Steve Buscemi. Then there are Emmi, Mimi, Pumpkin, Little Marvin and Uncle Dad (who apparently wasn’t spayed because he impregnated his two sisters, the Mommas). The couple also fosters “bottle babies,” kittens who have been orphaned and require bottle feeding.
Sometimes she integrates her cats into her fashion photography work. Which isn’t easy, especially with kittens. They’re not interested in trying to please you, she says. They do what they want.
“The cats are running everywhere, the people are exhausted,” she says. “After an hour, we’re like, ‘this is the world’s worst idea.’”
Turns out, not every cat is a Steve B.
Images courtesy of Kristiina Wilson Instagram.
Helen Anne Travis is a freelance writer based in Tampa, FL. She also writes for CNN, The Guardian and The Globe and Mail.