Flower Power, Pit Bulls of the Revolution
America euthanizes upward of 1,000,000 pit bull-type dogs every year. It's a quiet massacre. These dogs make people uncomfortable, which has led the country to be faced with a major pit bull crisis. Around the world, they are equally victims of prejudices that associate them with ultra-violence and make them disposable dogs. Through my series Flower Power: Pit Bulls of the Revolution, I decided to photograph them with flower crowns, to infuse a softer energy into their imagery. I wish for this series to challenge the way we look at pit bull-type dogs, and ultimately the way we treat them.
All the models from the series are shelter dogs who were waiting for adoption at the time of the photograph, and were thought to belong to the pit bull group (studies have shown that most of the time, the identification of pit bull-type dogs by shelter staff is inconsistent). I have photographed about 250 dogs since the project started in the summer 2014 (check this link to view the complete series and who is still waiting for a home).
The series is inspired by Baroque and Rococo's aesthetics, using the traditional codes of portraiture. The flowers symbolize the ephemeral quality of life, reminding us that these creatures are fragile and precious. By shortening the emotional distance with the subject, my images question our own humanity. Whether or not we like pit bulls, is it acceptable to produce and discard them in such high numbers, for no other reason than our own fears and shortcomings?
Pit bull-type dogs are like any other dogs: they need proper care, training and socialization. Unfortunately, because of their bad image, they have the false reputation of being more dangerous than other dogs, hence attracting irresponsible primary owners who are looking for a "scary dog", and seek to develop those traits in them. Pit bulls' downfall is to be exactly the way we created them: strong and loyal. With this series, I wonder if art is a tool powerful enough it can change pit bulls' fate.
Large format prints are available in limited edition. Small, open-edition prints are also available. Contact me for international orders. See my Store for U.S.-based orders.
You can also purchase the 2016 Flower Power calendar here.
Learn more about the Flower Power series
*** Join the #PitBullFlowerPower campaign on social media! ***
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. 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 dangerous? Or were most of them simply the victims of a generalization? Like many people, I admittedly had prejudices against them. I was savagely attacked as a child by a large dog (a briard). Since then, I would tensed up around large energetic dogs, and the stories media filled my head with were not helping. 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. So I decided to challenge the way we look at these dogs by portraying him in soft, feminine images.
I build the flower headpieces and bring them to shelters where I photograph dogs who are waiting for adoption. Because of the stigma attached to these dogs, they usually languish in shelters for months, years, before finding adoptive homes.
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.