Wet Dog, captured inside a grooming parlor, is a series of portraits of dogs photographed during their least favorite activity: bath time. I chose this activity because it is a very unnatural situation for the dogs, yet it is a direct consequence of their cohabitation with humans. Domesticated dogs need to be washed for hygiene, health and social reasons.
Exposing the dogs at a vulnerable moment enabled me to capture their wide range of expressions. Poignant looks, despair, anger and even judgment can be read into their eyes. I believe dogs are more than animals and have acquired a status of persona. They also have been subdued, manipulated genetically, trained, modified into perfect companions. Men created Dogs the way God created Mankind. Are the wet dogs beckoning us the same way humanity reaches out for her own gods, asking the Almighty the reason behind their suffering? The urban dog has become somewhat of a mirror to our own condition and our ultimate solitude.
I am currently working on a Wet Dog book, scheduled for Fall 2015 (Grand Central Publishing/US, Aurum Press/UK, Livre de Poche/France, Riva/Germany). The Wet Dog series has won the Portraiture category of the Sony World Photography Awards 2014, and has been published in numerous online and paper publications.
*** Join the Flower Power campaign! Post a picture of your pet with flowers (or wearing them) and use #PitBullFlowerPower. ***
"Flower Power, Pit Bulls of the Revolution" is a series dedicated to the dogs grouped under the name of pit bulls. I wished to portray this misunderstood group in a different light. The general public and news media consider a "pit bull" a dog that belongs to one of the following breeds, or simply looks like one: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Bull Terrier, or any mix. To put it in a nutshell, most "Pit bulls" are judged based on certain physical characteristics. Moreover, if they physically look like they belong to that group, they will be deemed dangerous by many, with no regard to their individual temperament.
This project started as an excuse for me to discover more about pit bulls, and to see for myself what the debate was about. Were they really all crazy and dangerous? Or were most of them simply the victims of a generalization? Like many people, I admittedly had prejudices against them. But as an active volunteer with many rescue groups, I often came in contact with pit bulls and was slowly warming up to their sweet nature. I decided to confront my apprehensions and explore their soft side in a visual way.
I realized pit bulls were always portrayed in very urban, gritty photographs. The imagery associated with these dogs is often harsh, very contrasted, conveying the idea of them being tough. In my opinion, this feeds the myth that these dogs are dormant psychopaths. So I decided to take the other route and portray them like hippies, soft fairy-tale-inspired characters, feminine and dreamy. The idea of Flower Power blossomed.
I made flower headpieces and approached three rescue groups in New York City: Sean Casey Animal Rescue, Second Chance Rescue and Animal Haven. All three welcomed my project with enthusiasm. I set up a studio in both boarding facilities and photographed some of the pit bulls who were up for adoption (July and August 2014).
An estimated 1,000,000 pit bulls are euthanized each year in America's shelters. Victims of prejudices, uneducated laws and urban tales that associate them with ultra violence, they are probably the most misunderstood dogs. Pit bulls, like any terrier dogs, are strong and powerful animals. There is no denying that. But power does not necessarily mean violence. Most pit bulls are peaceful and sweet love bugs. Their power is in their snuggles and unconditional love. For this series, I imagined them like hippies, fighting the system and the image they are given with the power of love and the softness of flowers.
"Flower Power" is about challenging myself to approach pit bulls with a fresh perspective and an open heart. I invite the viewer to do the same.
Prints are available and I am working on a 2015 calendar which will be available soon! Proceeds will go to these three rescue groups. For prints, please check out my US store or the international one.
Watchdogs are dogs used to protect a person or property against threats. The use of guarding dogs originates over thousands of years ago. They are traditionally big and scary-looking breeds.
In the recent years, a new trend has emerged in big cities: small dogs (called toy dogs) are carried around in purses, and have sometimes become accessories to their owners. They wear expensive clothes, collars and leashes. Dog carriers are becoming luxurious and made in expensive materials. These dogs follow their owners everywhere and sometimes live lavish lifestyles.
I cannot help but wonder: Aren't these dogs becoming some sort of emotional ramparts against the world? Security blankets for women who are afraid to go into the world alone? They are like little soldiers, sidekicks, confidants, best friends. With them by their side, these women never have to feel alone and exposed anymore.
In New York, dog fashion is a serious matter. In the unconventional world, pet couturiers and designers compete for the best designs and doggie moms fight for the spotlight while their precious dogs showcase exquisite outfits that can sell for hundreds of dollars.
Fascinated by the inherent anthropomorphism of this pet culture, photographer Sophie Gamand embarked on a series of portraits, Dog Vogue, inviting acclaimed pet couturier Anthony Rubio to create unique pieces, and a handful of Chihuahua as models. Using the garments created by the couturier, and styling each photograph carefully, Sophie Gamand photographed the dogs as if they were super models from lush fashion magazines.
With their larger-than-life attitude Chihuahuas were the perfect models for Sophie’s vision. She created a gallery of characters, dressing them up the way these dogs probably see themselves: like princesses and emperors, divas and knights.
Couture by Anthony Rubio Styling and Photography by Sophie Gamand Models: Bogie, Kimba, Amazing Grace, Daisy, Angel Song, Peach, Cosmo, Chester, Bleu, Sparky, Chai Latte, Coffee Bean, Diva.
Dead Dog Beach
The Lost Souls
There are 250,000 stray dogs in Puerto Rico, a US Commonwealth about the size of Connecticut. The stray population keeps on growing and no humane solution has yet been found. Puerto Rican stray dogs are called “Satos” by locals. Although people own dogs as pets, they see Satos as vermin and these dogs live short lives of neglect and abuse.
Dead Dog Beach is located on the South-East coast of the island. A dumping ground, it is known for its stray dog population, and the abuse that has occurred on the isolated beach including gang rituals, target practice, and cars running over helpless dogs and puppies. Dogs are dumped here everyday. The Sato Project, a rescue group founded by New Yorker Chrissy Beckles, is their only source of fresh water and food, and rescues them as their resources allow it. Dead Dog Beach is one of the many beaches of the island overran by stray dogs.
On the beach, some of the dogs are very frightened or completely feral. Others have lived in homes and follow people around the beach, wagging their tails, looking for their owners, food, or a gentle hand. Some dogs are in a state of shock. Others, reconnecting with their deep wild nature, organize themselves into packs in their battle for survival.
As I am photographing, I sometimes wonder: could the dogs of Dead Dog Beach survive on their own? If not, why can’t they? Has our bond with dogs made us so codependent that we feel the need to rescue them, and has it made dogs unfit for life in the wild? The pursuit of these questions fuels my photographic exploration.
Metamorphosis is an ongoing project about dog grooming. Some people say that “grooming is like having a new dog”. Exploring different stages of the grooming process, I discover the multiple dogs hidden in one. Metamorphosis is a symbolic exploration of the domestication of dogs, who went from being wild animals to living with humans as pets. And as a consequence, have to follow a new set of social and hygienic rules dictated by their human owners.
The project was a finalist in the GIF category of the New York Photo Festival, 2014.
The “Doggie moms” are women (and sometimes men) carrying dressed up toy dogs in purses everywhere they go. Through their dogs, they meet regularly, often for animal-related charity events, and for each occasion have their dog wear hundreds of dollars in bedazzled outfits. Pet fashion designers and Pet stylists have emerged, to provide this crowd with always more garments and accessories. It is a thriving business where designers compete, and the Doggie Moms, sometimes acting like Stage Moms, would do anything to see their dogs in the spotlight. Many of these dogs even have their own Facebook page. The Doggie Moms disappear behind their dog. But, similar to the kids’ pageants, if the focus appears to be on the dogs, isn't the show about their moms?
In a city like New York where having a child is so expensive, where people don’t want to give up their freedom or lifestyle, where they feel isolated and have a hard time meeting their soul mate, the dog seems to be the perfect answer: a child that never grows up, never fails you, shows eternal gratitude and unconditional love, can be shaped to be a projection of your ego, fits in a purse, is the ideal companion, and a social anchor. The word “pet” etymologically refers to the “indulged child”.
In 2013, New York City hosted its first Dog Pageant. 30 dogs competed for active wear, talent and evening wear.
Opera Dogs is an homage to opera singing through our canine friends.
At the Vet
This is the project that fueled my obsession for dog photography. In 2010, having moved to New York, I pushed the door of the Cobble Hill Animal Clinic. Sebastian, the blue eyed dog, peeked from behind a wall. He looked worried, out-of-place. I took a photo of him and started wondering: are animals meant to live a city lifestyle? What are the consequences for them? To which extents do humans go to fit their pets in their urban lifestyle? The images from the vet clinic crystallize all the issues that arise (spay/neuter, declawing, diabetes, depressive states…).
Maintaining a pet in New York is very expensive. The vet bills lead some owners to abandon their animals or have them euthanized, where others are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars in medical treatments. The photos explore the place pets occupy at the clinic and how they try to fit in a stressful and unnatural environment.