For several decades, pioneering video artist, conceptualist, photographer, painter and writer William Wegman created photographic portraits of his Weimaraners, dogs with gray dresses and sad looks. Behind this iconic photo project today hides a story more than anodyne.
In the late 1960s, Wegman was a professor of art at a Wisconsin university while working as an artist. He painted, maked some photos and videos that hadn’t achieved (yet) a great success. He planned to leave the Midwest for the west coast, and to help his wife accept this move, he offered her to adopt a dog. A few weeks later, the couple adopted Man Ray, their first Weimaraner.
Simply by researching in his studio, he decided one day to have the animal posed for a portrait. After some pictures, he realized that these particularly calm and phlegmatic dogs were perfect models, as like to pose, but they also have a gray, neutral color, and the artist can create lots of stories about them, like on a blackboard.”
Hundreds of photo sessions followed, with various Weimaraners: sometimes astronauts, sometimes lawyers, wearing a wig, a dress or stilettos, taking the role of a housewife, a priest, a soldier or even a worker. With his images, Wegman slips the animal into the skin of a human being and suddenly makes us think about our own humanity.
Sometimes moving but often funny, the images of the artist never fall into kitsch, through the usual animal photo. Using wide format Polaroid printing, he gives us intense colors and arresting pictures. His images can speak to all, photography lovers as neophytes.