Hello Nature has said goodbye to Bowdoin. Much has been written about the exhibition; the reviews, mostly good. I really enjoyed every aspect of the show from the very beginning to end.
The opening reception was great. My 90-year-old father George made a surprise appearance thanks to my cousin LeeAnn Herrick. George is blind from macular degeneration and rarely goes anywhere these days. Both my sister Pam and I were completely surprised to see him.
The president of Bowdoin, Barry Mills, acknowledged him warmly during introductory remarks before my talk, which made me glow. My entire family was there, my wife Christine, my kids Atlas and Lola, my sister Pam and beau Ernie. There was a great group of friends from Rangeley. And of course, the three dogs Candy, Bobbin and Flo.
To make the opening even more eventful we received our new puppy Topper from breeder Brian Meany.
So now we have ten dogs. Bobbin, Candy, Flo, Flo, Flo. Flo, Topper, Topper, Topper, and Topper. Or so it seems.
Friends, relatives, and helpers played with the dogs while I endured a lengthy book signing. Book signing is fun...at first.
When it was over I was glad to pack up and get back to Rangeley. But of course that not is the end of it. I had to meet the New York Times video person and she followed be around the place with her camera for a couple of days. Being a famous artist can be tiring.
William Wegman: Hello Nature has closed at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, but the catalog is available here. Check back here for details on future venues.
Although Topper was a stellar model, bright and calm and adorable, I had no intention of getting another puppy. Three dogs is more than enough. Bobbin, age 13, has become quite a lot of work and Flo is pretty ridiculous. Candy is no trouble, but when I walk them the leashes get braided as they weave down the sidewalk in NYC.
So after a few days of shooting, I said goodbye to Brian, and to Topper and the other puppies, and we left for Maine.
The dogs quickly settled back into their Maine routine, but after a couple of days I began to feel sorry for Flo. Candy and Bobbin couldn't keep up with her on our bike rides, or miles long treks through the woods. I kept thinking about Topper. He was energetic, but steady. He could be a perfect companion for Flo, and for us.
So I asked my wife Christine if maybe we should get Topper after all, and to my surprise she immediately said yes. So then I called Brian Meany and he immediately said yes. As luck would have it, Brian was scheduled to meet up with friends in Maine and he bring Topper up to Bowdoin College, where my show Hello Nature was due to be opening in a few days.
Topper was sweet and calm at the opening, had a quiet ride back to Rangeley. He spent the next several weeks exploring the woods and the lake, just like Flo did last summer.
Bobbin and Candy are fine with this. They are grown-ups.
Check back tomorrow and every day this week for Topper photos, videos and more!
From Flo's first shoot
Flo's first birthday was March 23. She came to us from Brian and Beth Meany in May 2011, at 8 weeks old with her sisters Stella and Mable for a photo shoot and I fell in love with her. In spite of my better judgement I decided to keep her. Surprisingly no one objected, even thought I already had three dogs, Bobbin, Candy and their daughter Penny.
Decision making was made complicated by Penny's being diagnosed with lymphoma earlier that month. Penny's oncologist said it was a good idea, that Flo would be a nice diversion for all of us, including Penny. She was right. She and Penny became inseparable (more Flo's idea than Penny's). During Penny's last hours Flo was very sweet to her. I like to think that helped.
Flo and Penny
Though we are sad Flo continues to entertain us.
Flo at nine months
She is a comic beauty, an electrified version of Batty, another funny beauty. Flo is busy, chewy, and tall. Lucky for me she loves to work. When she was just starting out I put her on a pedestal in the studio alongside the other dogs that were being photographed so she could experience the strobe flash. When it was her turn she performed like a pro.
Flo at six months
An altogether matter is her rambunctious behavior at home, especially now that she is full grown. When visitors come we have to tackle and corral her into another room or hang on to her somehow to keep her from launching herself on them. I have learned techniques on how to keep a dog from jumping up and they have worked to perfection on any of my other dogs in the past. Part of the problem is she looks so great standing tall and its hard to discourage such elegance and joy. Some staff and family members find my lack of success in training her baffling. Am I not the dog guy?
Flo had fun in Maine in late March. It was 80 and beginning to be muddy. I had heard about mud season but never experienced it. Then it got colder. Then it got colder. Then it got colder. Then it snowed. Snow is great. We got to ski. Flo followed us when we cross-country skied. I tried to grab onto her collar for a free ride. With Chip and Chundo you could really get a great ride...20mph, I'm guessing. With Flo it was no go. Maybe next year.
People often ask me if the puppies I photograph are always my dogs. Usually, they are not. (My last litter was Candy's, in 2004.) A few times a year, some of my weimeraner friends will bring their litters by the studio, and I will work with their puppies.
In recent years I have been photographing puppies raised by Brian and Beth Meany of Syracuse and Gene and Renee LaFollette from Virginia, weimaraner people I met through the late great Jinny Alexander. To many Jinny was queen mother of weimaraners in America. The litters I have shot in the last year have been the first without Jinny's presence. She has been missed.
Last week we photographed three six-week-old little darlings, a litter born from Gene and Renee's dog Java. They were exceptionally, almost unbearably, cute. The most compelling shots were close ups using minimal or no props and complimentary background tones. To achieve this, we used an extension ring, which gave the effect of a macro lens -- we were able to get closer.
Adult dogs can shy from puppies. Not Flo. (Watch a video of Flo interacting with the puppies here.) My favorite is of two puppies sleeping on Flo's back, using her as furniture.
The six-week-old puppies' expressions are so different from those of eight weeks, the age one typically adopts a puppy. At this age they observe us without expectation, just openness. Later they will exhibit a range of emotions for us to interpret as we will.
I love photographing puppies at various stages of their development, but especially love the 5-6 week-ers. They are strong enough to handle and are rather predictable so you can work with them around their daily cycle of sleep-eat-play-sleep. Their eyes are very, very blue at this age. Later they will (typically) turn a yellow amber color.
William Wegman, One Week Memorized in One Night, 1975
I have been blogging for a year now. I am still not sure why I blog. It doesn't seem like something I should be doing. Yet I do.
I will ask my good friend On Kawara. I'll get back to you.