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Wild Ones

Photographer Bridget Badore & Queso Share Zodiac Signs, Personal Spaces, Lots of Feelings

“When I bring out my camera she tries to fight me, which is a shame because she really does know how to find her light.”

by Nikki Palumbo
January 3, 2022
Bridget Badore holding her cat

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Photographer and self-professed “person who loves to talk about big feelings” Bridget Badore has quite the eye for making people feel seen. Badore’s ethereal portraits have been featured in The New York Times, New York Magazine, InStyle, Vogue India, Bust Magazine, The Cut, Esquire, and The New Yorker. Sometimes she trades in a picture for a thousand words and writes a monthly newsletter — mostly about aforementioned feelings — and frequently overshares on Instagram. (Her cat, Queso, also has an Instagram account, but is less of an overshare-er.) We talked to Badore about how she and Queso (over-/under-) share their anxieties, space, and professional ability of finding the perfect light.

Tell me a little about how you identify, cat-wise.

I’ve definitely always been a cat person. I was obsessed with cats as a child and into adulthood. Every bodega cat I’ve ever seen has a piece of my heart. There’s a photo of me in an issue of Cosmo from college which I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed of or take pride in.

Bridget Badore with her camera, Queso (her orange cat) basking in the sunlight

Pride, for sure. And what’s Queso’s origin story?

Queso was rescued from a beach in Puerto Rico by The Sato Project. They typically only rescue dogs, but apparently they found her on the beach alone and took her in. I don’t know how she ended up alone on that beach...but I like to believe she had been running the beach and secretly despises us for taking her from that life. We don’t know her exact breed, but she is perfect. She’s the softest, fluffiest cat I’ve ever known with the biggest attitude. She’s a Taurus, which is great because my partner and I are ALSO Taurus babies, so it’s great to have the whole household on the same wavelength. Queso and I are both anxious and we’re at our best when everyone we love is in one place (the couch).

You’re an absurdly talented photographer. Does Queso know that?

Queso doesn’t really get photography. She’s actually much more into sports. A tale as old as time: the artist with the athlete child.

Queso, Bridget Badore's fluffy orange cat

I imagine (and hope) you have some stunning portraits of Queso... would you care to share a few?

I wish I had more! My friend Sylvie takes these incredible portraits of her cat and I don’t know how she does it! Queso will not tolerate being photographed professionally. Actually, Queso hates being perceived in any capacity — we have a security-type camera at home (so I can check on her at all times whenever I leave the house — hello, yes, I am paranoid), and she knocks it over every single day. She just walks right up to it and swipes it until it falls face down. She will not be surveilled. But we do manage to get a few cute photos here and there, mostly with my phone. When I bring out my camera she tries to fight me, which is a shame because she really does know how to find her light.

As a photographer, you observe the world around you with a curiosity not unlike a cat. Do you share any similar curiosities with Queso?

Queso and I are both really into vegan ice cream. I am also very curious about boundaries and Queso is an expert, so I can learn a lot from her. Cats are fiercely independent but also very needy and cuddly, and I identify with that duality in my core.

Bridget Badore and her fluffy orange cat, Queso

When you shoot, you create such an intimate space and connection. How have you bonded with your cat?

Queso is very elusive and she doesn’t like to come out and show you how much she cares. She prefers to bond only on her terms. Queso comes to you, not the other way around, you know? I can appreciate that because I think everyone is just trying to figure out how to connect but it is always so hard and awkward! Especially when we’re carrying around trauma! I think Queso and I both have abandonment issues, so I try not to take it personal when she doesn’t want to cuddle right away. I know she needs a little extra help to let her know that I’m safe to love. She just needs to feel out a situation first before she can let her guard down. I can relate to that (or am I just projecting myself onto my cat?)

Is Queso ever helpful with your work?

Helpful... yes, Queso is incredibly “helpful.” She will come onto my desk when I am editing and tell me “you are done now” by rolling around on my keyboard until it makes scary noises and threatens to delete all of my work. That’s when I know it’s time to take a break! Sometimes when I’m having a hard day, she’ll come up onto my desk and rub her face against my face, which is the best. She is also very “helpful” in keeping me up to date with the latest equipment, because she will chew on my charging cords until they don’t work anymore and I have to get new ones. You see, very helpful!

Bridget Badore and her fluffy orange cat, Queso

You’re a huge proponent of being transparent about mental health. How has Queso supported you emotionally (if at all), especially during the last 18+ months?

Putting my face in Queso’s belly does WONDERS for my will to live. When she’s napping in the sun in the middle of the day and I’m about to launch into my third panic attack, I sit myself right in front of that sleepy monster and just stick my face in her fluff. Face full of fluff a day keeps the doctor away. I also host a weekly artist group over Zoom (which has helped immensely since quarantine) and we were talking once about how we should all be more like cats. As artists, we’re always like “Can I do this? Am I doing it?” and cats just do it! They ask for what they want! They haven’t been conditioned to hide their needs or desires like adult humans have. They don’t need to explain themselves! They go wherever the sun is hitting the carpet.

You co-host a wonderful — and necessary — community chat called Dead Parent Club. Do you think having an animal with nine lives in your life has helped you process any of your loss or grief?

This little community is one of the loves of my life. It makes me think about my first cat, Thomas O’Malley. He was a feisty little orange cat (I have a love for orange cuties). I feel like I more openly grieved for Thomas when he died than I did for my dad. I was three when my father passed away, and maybe six or seven when Thomas died. I used to draw both my cat and my dad as angels everywhere, and my angel cat filled up just as much space (if not more) on the page than my dad. It’s so funny, right? It makes sense that a little kid would be able to grasp the death of a pet easier than the death of a caregiver.

Was that your question?! Coming back to the present day: I do think that Queso keeps me compassionate, which is a huge part of connecting with my humanity and the things that keep me tethered to life. I have a tendency to get prickly, but a fluffy creature relying on me everyday keeps me soft. (Don’t tell her I told you that — she doesn’t want people to think she relies on anyone). 

Bridget Badore's orange cat, Queso

Last but not least, can you imagine your world without Queso?

Absolutely not, and I have an existential crisis every time I think about it... PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME THINK ABOUT IT!

nikki palumbo

Nikki Palumbo

Nikki is a writer and comedian. Her writing has appeared on The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Funny or Die, Reductress, the Google Assistant, and her folks’ fridge. She was named one of WhoHaha’s “35 LGBTQ Creators We Love” in 2018 and a Yes, And Laughter Lab finalist in 2019. She worked as a story producer on the YouTube Originals weekly music show, RELEASED, and wrote for the inaugural 2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards: Unscripted, hosted by Nikki Glaser. Nikki hosts the monthly-ish standup show Queer Tiger Beat, which has been recommended by The New York Times and featured in Time Out.