My friend lives near the photographer William Wegman. She knows this because one day, while walking her dog on the sidewalk, she heard a man addressing his pair of Weimaraners, Flo and Topper. And any self-respecting New Yorker with a love for canines and art would know instantly, as she did, that it was William Wegman. His dogs, always Weimaraners and always with very distinctive names, are famous. They have been since the ’70s, when he first began photographing them.
It all started with Man Ray, his beloved dog (named for the Dada artist) and first muse. Together, the two collaborated on photographs and videotapes until Man Ray died from cancer in 1982 — the same year The Village Voice named him the “Man of the Year.” It’s not surprising that the creature was humanised by the press: Wegman captured Man Ray doing mundane, humanlike things, like drinking a glass of milk or receiving a school report card.
Wegman has owned several Weimaraners since, each of whom have patiently allowed him to dress them up in elaborate costumes and snap their pictures for the artist’s countless books or gallery shows. And over the years, he took many more photos than he published. “I went through boxes and boxes of pictures that I never bothered to look at after taking them and found kind of a treasure, and some really interesting situations,” says Wegman. “Some things that I thought I never did before, I found out I had done before. And other directions that I sort of abandoned were interesting. My poor memory — I forgot what I had been doing!”
A majority of those gems make up a new book, “William Wegman: Being Human,” out in October. In the meantime, beginning September 5th, many never-before-seen Polaroids from the collection will be on view at Sperone Westwater in New York.
In advance of the show, Wegman allows T to publish some of the found images here for the first time. He also shares with us, in his own words, a little memory about the creation of each.