Andrew Marttila, the mastermind behind @iamthegreatwent on Instagram, wasn’t always the most likely candidate for a cat-based career. In fact, he was severely allergic to most animals when he was a kid. “I wasn’t just allergic to cats,” he recalls, “but almost all animals. Anything that had dander. I could never be around cats or dogs without the risk of having to go to the hospital from an allergic reaction. I was asthmatic and I would close up really quickly.”
When he moved into his grandmother’s home to help with upkeep, it was her cat who changed his life. In the beginning he depended on frequent doses of antihistamines and kept the cat at arm’s length. But he slowly allowed the cat to get close to him with an inhaler nearby and he eventually built up an immunity through exposure. After six months, the cat was sleeping on his bed and he was in love with her. Just like that, Andrew was a Cat Man.
You’d never know it from looking at his gorgeous photographs, but Andrew wasn’t professionally trained in his craft. He’s self-taught! He started out by taking pictures of his own cat, Haroun, when she was a kitten. His photographs were so lovely that eventually his friends started commissioning him for photo sessions of their own cats.
As someone who didn’t grow up around animals, Andrew had to learn how to interact with them. “When I started to go into other people’s homes to take pictures of their animals,” he says, “it was a little trickier. But because it’s my personality to be soft spoken and patient it was easy for me to gauge the cat’s willingness to interact with me. I figured out how to approach them and get them to be comfortable around me.”
Of course, every once in a while there is a cat who doesn’t want to indulge its humans with a photo shoot. Andrew says he’ll wait around for a while until the cat is comfortable. Being patient and letting the cat slowly warm up to him almost always works.
Cat photography has been Andrew’s full-time profession for about two years now. “I’m super lucky the stars aligned as they did,” he says, “Something I did for fun turned out to be something really cool that I can share with other people.” His work has introduced him to quite a few famous cats, too. To name a few, his work has brought him face-to-face with Lil Bub, Grumpy Cat, and Pudge!
Be sure to follow Andrew at @iamthegreatwent and visit his website to learn more about his work. Andrew will happily travel an hour from his home in Philadelphia if you want to hire him to photograph your cats. You’re not necessarily out of luck if you live further away though, since he often puts a notice on Instagram and makes himself available for photo shoots when he travels.