Chesher Cat is a creative storyteller who incorporates photography, video, and prose into her projects. Selected as one of our 2017 Made in NY Fellows, she is currently developing Under New York City, a new project that will detail a physical world below – the subway tunnels and the people who live there – through photography, documentary film, and 360° video.
After beginning her career as a rock and roll photographer in Vancouver, BC and shooting hundreds of concerts by Led Zeppelin, Elton John, The Eagles, and George Harrison (to name a few), Chesher moved to Los Angeles and compiled Starart, a book showcasing fine art created by Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones, amongst others.
It was in Los Angeles that she was introduced to filmmaking and began working for Cannon Pictures. Chesher shot production stills, read scripts, and, eventually, became head of the art department. This opportunity to observe and participate in the behind-the-scenes machinations of a production company was the “best film school ever,” and Chesher was hooked.
Soon enough, she was acting, writing, and directing short films, and completed her second photography book, Everybody I Shot Is Dead, in 2007. Comprised of images of musicians she had photographed who had since passed away, Chesher’s moving tribute to the music world was well-received and garnered unanimous praise.
In 2013: Chesher moved to New York, where she was quickly drawn to what goes on underground in a city that never sleeps. Fast-forward to last year, when Chesher found herself in the underbelly of Paris, telling a new set of stories through her unique lens. Not only did she shoot the subways, she also explored the famous catacombs under Paris built in the early 1700’s and documented how those labyrinthine tunnels have changed over time, including their use during World War II.
On the long flight back home, feeling inspired by the catacombes de Paris, Chesher was wondering what else might be under the surface of New York, and how those stories could be unearthed brought into the light. Arriving back home, she wasted little time and began work on her ultimate love letter to NYC: Under New York City.
“There are plenty of people working down there every single day of their lives. I’m deeply interested in those people and what being underground means to them,” Chesher explains. “I want to document everything that’s underground before it’s gone.”
Chesher’s plan is to cover everything under the surface; sewers, underground tunnels, buildings, and yes, she is on the hunt for catacombs, too.
Currently in the fundraising stage Under New York City, Chesher recently received fiscal sponsorship through the New York Foundation for the Arts and won a 2017 Made in NY MicroGrant, which she’s putting toward the project’s first installment, Invisible in Plain Sight. Dedicated to telling the stories of newsstand vendors who spend their days (and nights) on subway platforms, this initial excursion is just the first stop on Chesher’s descent into New York’s underground.
To support and follow Chesher and her team’s journey go to undernyc.org