William Wegman’s work has seized the fascination of art and animal lovers worldwide. Since the 1970s, Wegman has collaborated with his Weimaraners, creating photos and videos that have appeared in museums and galleries across the globe. From fashion shoots to posing on ornate furniture, he offers a whimsically fresh perspective on our canine companions through the lens of his art. Wegman creates stunning and surreal artwork with his beloved dogs, cleverly capturing their unique personalities — and now, in our Animal People interview, he tells us about the special dogs who have been both his muses and faithful friends.
Who was the first animal to make an impact on your life?
I got my first dog on Christmas Day in 1950. I was seven and his name was Wags, and he lived into the l970s. I grew up in a small quarry town in western Massachusetts, and had a paper route that Wags would always come on with me. He once got hit by a car during my route and survived. He was rarely allowed upstairs and never allowed on the furniture, and I think it’s a pity, because dogs look great on furniture. (My dogs do.) We also had cats, and I was very attached to them, but I think it was different with Wags. He responded when I talked to him.
A Secret, 1994 (with Fay and Batty)
How were you first inspired to include your animals in your art?
Most everyone who has a camera and a dog takes their picture. I was in my mid-20s when I got my first camera and my second dog, a weimaraner named Man Ray. He was the first dog I was responsible for myself. He was just 6 weeks old — too young, I now realize, to be taken from his mother. One way to keep him occupied was to photograph him. He was constantly seeking attention, so I gave it to him.
Split Level, 2010 (with Candy and Penny)
What have you learned through working with your dogs?
Don’t get angry. Stay calm. If someone does something wrong on the set, you shouldn’t yell, because the dog will take the blame and become troubled. Take a moment to breathe.
Who are your current canine companions and subjects?
My current dogs are Topper and Flo. Flo is 11 and her half-brother, Topper, just turned 10. I first met Flo when she and her littermates arrived at the studio for a photoshoot. She was a real star. She came back to live with us at 8 weeks old (the recommended time). At 18 months old, Topper came to another photoshoot. Flo was obsessed with Topper, so I kept him for her. I brought them both to my summer studio in Rangeley, Maine, and they went right to work.
Looking Right, 2015 (With Topper and Flo)
Do you enjoy being able to include your dogs in the artistic process?
Involving my dogs in my work has been truly amazing. I am still finding ways to work with them and push us into new areas. I have lived and worked with 10 dogs since 1970, and each dog brings something different and exciting to the work. Fay was intense, Batty practically liquid, Chundo noble, Flo as intense as Fay and Topper handsome. I could go on and on …
I love showing my work. “Mom, see what I made?” “Very good, Billy.” But dogs don’t care about the results, only the process. I think they want to be involved in whatever we do.
See more of William’s work at williamwegman.com.