Artist William Wegman’s arresting photographs and videos of Weimaraners have graced museums, books and Sesame Street for nearly four decades. His book, William Wegman: Being Human (Chronicle Books), features rarely seen images from his vast oeuvre of canine photographs. Bark recently spoke to the artist about his work.
I have two dogs now, Flo and Topper, ages six and five, half-sister and brother (they have the same mother). Like all my dogs, they’re working dogs, and love what they do. When they’re in the studio, they go right over to the photo zone with its lights, props and helpers. Once there, they stare back at the camera as though they’re thinking, “Now what?”
Whisper is just a dog in a loose dress. It’s a closeup of Batty, my sweetest dog ever, and also the most comical. This one was different … making a human character without doing much—no wigs, no makeup or hands. The title came from the softness and the way the image projects. Whisper seemed to describe the mood of that piece.
On Base is part of a project I did for the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center—we had a show of the opera pictures at Gallery Met. When I make these works, I go to the studio and assemble things and just start playing around. Sometimes, like the opera commission, there are lots of props from all of these operas; in this case, they were lent to me by the Met’s backstage people. That was fun … I like getting surprises like that. It’s almost like being a stand-up comedian and taking suggestions from the audience: “How about a joke about a priest and a minister?” So you do that. It’s not something I sketch out beforehand.