|Notes on ERNIE
Every day for two years, Tony Mendoza got down on his hands and knees and entered Ernie's world. Ernie, a preternaturally charismatic feline belonging to Mendoza's housemate, was less a pet than a third housemate—the kind of screwball one comes home to find rummaging through one's closet or lounging on one's bed, eating chips (or, in Ernie's case, insects).
In the early 1980s, when these pictures were taken and subsequently published in the book Ernie, it was rare to see animals photographed as they lived—eating, prowling, snarling, destroying family heirlooms. . . . More common were the cute studio shots of vacant-eyed, fluffy kittens, as unrealistic and humorless as their human pin-up counterparts. Not surprisingly, Ernie became an instant cult classic, and dozens of photographers paid tribute to Mendoza and his muse with imitation photo essays. Yet, this duo's chemistry continues to go unmatched—few have come close to capturing the lives of animals with such spark and wit.