Pictures of Cute Animals in Costume, Long Before the Internet

"The Aviator"

By 1929, photographer Harry Whittier Frees had gained such success through sales of his animal photographs for use in post cards, children's books and advertising materials that he published a book called Animal Land on the Air. In it, Frees describes his experience of painstakingly creating his elaborate scenes of animals in costume, usually using multiple props,

"Rabbits are the easiest to photograph in costume, but incapable of taking many ”human“ parts. Puppies are tractable when rightly understood, but the kitten is the most versatile animal actor, and possesses the greatest variety of appeal.

The pig is the most difficult to deal with, but effective on occasion. The best period of young animal models is a short one, being when they are from six to ten weeks of age. An interesting fact is that a kitten’s attention is best held through the sense of sight, while that of a puppy is most influenced by sound, and equally readily distracted by it. The native reasoning powers of young animals are, moreover, quite as pronounced as those of the human species, and relatively far surer."

Unlike Potter's famous early taxidermy photos, Frees used live animals and also wrote in Animal Land on Air that his photographs were "made possible only by patient, unfailing kindness on the part of the photographer at all times."

It's easy to understand why Frees is the subject of Internet and magazine articles of late and of old: his work was visionary in that he put his finger on the photo trigger as well as on a part of future American popular culture  from advertising to Internet memes  when he specialized in images of cute animals and their capacity to make humans feel good.

 "When Bedime Comes"


 "Ready for a Dive"


 "The Outing" 



"Making a Date"



"The Fast Express"



"Making Baby's Clothes"



"Pick a Pack"


Images Credit: Harry Whittier Frees/Library of Congress

Via: Beautiful Decay 


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