On The Bright Side - The Iconic Dog Portraits of William Wegman

As Halloween nears, we are all soon to be bombarded with a litany of images in our social media feeds of our friend’s unwilling pets being forced to don cute/embarrassing outfits picked out by their fawning owners. In fact, it’s highly likely that we have perpetrated this subtle canine fashion abuse ourselves at some point and time in our lives. How can you help it? They’re just so darn cute. But what is far less likely is that any of us will have achieved the rakish heights of the world’s foremost purveyor of canine imagery, William Wegman.

Of course, all jokes aside, that is likely because Wegman’s work with dogs for the last thirty plus years far exceeds the concept of playing doggie dress-up. Instead, this true artist has created some of the most indelible photographs in the history of our art form. His portraits have spawned 40 books, countless gallery shows across the globe, fashion spreads in the likes of French Vogue, and even guest appearances on everything from Saturday Night Live to Sesame Street. Wegman was also the subject of a recent Fstoppers article by Mike Wilkinson.

In advance of Wegman’s latest and most comprehensive book yet, “Being Human,” the artist sat down with PBS NewsHour’s Megan Thompson to discuss his work and a legendary career that almost never took place.

Wegman’s original career aspiration was to become a painter. It wasn’t until his wife talked him into getting a dog that his fate inadvertently became sealed. With this strange and unfamiliar new toy at his disposal, Wegman did what most of us do when confronted with something new in his life. He tried creating art with it.

Struck by both the beauty and personalities of his new subjects, Wegman soon found himself inspired to create more and more.

Hardly a snapshooter, Wegman takes a methodical approach. Not that he has much of a choice. While he has now converted to digital, the majority of the images in his archive were created with a 20x24 inch Polaroid camera. Literally the size of a refrigerator, only five such cameras exist in the world. This deliberate and considered approach allows Wegman not only to capture technical quality, but also supports his aesthetic mantra to create imagery that is not only beautiful but truly one of a kind.

To learn more about Wegman and his work, check out the awesome segment from the show. And if, in a couple weeks, you find yourself with the urge to recruit your own four-legged friend into a little impromptu photo shoot, think back on Wegman’s Weimaraners and take your work to the next level. Please. For the dog’s sake.

Christopher Malcolm's picture

Christopher Malcolm is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle, fitness, and advertising photographer, director, and cinematographer shooting for clients such as Nike, lululemon, ASICS, and Verizon.

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