cover image William Wegman Puppies

William Wegman Puppies

William Wegman. Hyperion Books for Children, $24.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0320-0

For two decades, photographer Wegman (William Wegman's Mother Goose) has focused on his weimaraner menagerie, as this unusual and amiable album indicates. Part documentary, part catalogue raisonne and part coffee-table book, this photo essay opens with a (canine) family tree and contains Wegman's affectionate recollections of his companions. Color images of the dogs from their first days through adulthood, prove that these puppies have grown up facing the camera. Soon after their birth, Wegman arranges them in squirmy piles; later, he tosses them in the air, and an assistant captures on film their sailing ears, splayed legs and blank stares (""In their trust in us, they are oblivious""). The artist avoids warm fuzzy softness, which he calls ""the cuddly-bear greeting card phase"" and contends that newborn pups are ""more alien than cute."" Aesthetics, wit and pathos inform every image (notably a quartet of blurred, desperate shots of a puppy trying to swim). Only the steeliest cynic could remain unmoved by photos of sightless puppies propped on wood blocks or squinting blue-eyed pups nestled in cloth cocoons. This enormously appealing volume contains artistic tension and fatherly pride enough for any collector of Wegman's past work or newcomers to his photography. All ages. (Oct.)