cover image William Wegman Polaroids

William Wegman Polaroids

William Wegman. ABRAMS, $49.95 (232pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-3480-1

Although Wegman's artistic output includes photography and video work that doesn't feature canines, ""by the mid-Seventies,"" he wryly notes, ""I had become the guy with the dog."" The dog was Man Ray, a weimaraner with a movie star's instinct for the spotlight. Using a 1978 20x24 Polaroid camera, Wegman captured his beloved dog on film; for more than 20 years now, Wegman has continued to experiment with the camera, immortalizing his next weimaraner, Fay Ray, and a long line of her progeny. Though the collection contains a few portraits of people, next to the expressive and enigmatic canine tableaux, Wegman's human compositions are pale and unengaging-less human, in fact, than the dog photographs. In Rouge (1982), one of the last portraits of Man Ray, the ailing dog's eyes shine with wisdom and melancholy. In contrast, 1982's Eau II, a portrait of a glammed-up woman with a bloody nose and a Chanel bottle, seems cold and dated (or in the vein of a knock-off Cindy Sherman). It is when Wegman, refraining from indulging his latter-day fascination with prop and costume anthropomorphism, focuses on the dogs themselves-whether on their musculature, their sleek taupe coats or the graceful incline of their brows-that his photographs take on a life of their own and become truly beautiful.