Earlier this year, I interviewed the New York City-based photographer Sophie Gamand about her Wet Dog project. As the title suggests, the eye-catching series captured images of dogs in the middle of receiving a vigorous shampoo and scrub. Now for Sophie’s latest Watchdog project she’s reimagined tiny dogs as guard dogs.
“The use of guard dogs originates over thousands of years ago. They are traditionally big and scary-looking breeds,” explains Sophie, before adding her twist to the concept: “In recent years, a new trend has emerged in big cities: small dogs (called toy dogs) are carried around in purses and have sometimes become accessories to their owners. They wear expensive clothes, collars and leashes.”
This craze caused Sophie to wonder, “Aren’t these dogs becoming emotional ramparts against the world? Security blankets for women who are afraid to go into the world alone? They are like little soldiers, sidekicks, confidants, best friends. With them by their side, these women never have to feel alone and exposed anymore. They are not really there to protect their owner’s property, but more to shield them from the outside world. It’s like being a singer with a guitar: You hide behind the guitar and the guitar makes you feel safe enough that you can take on the world.”
While shooting the dogs, Sophie says she was aiming to portray them as looking like “statues from an ethnologic museum.” To that end she photographed the dogs on a reflective surface — although she jokes that sometimes the models were thrown off as they gazed at their reflections.
Asked about the bedazzled armor the dinky canines are dressed up in, Sophie says she sourced most of it from small gift stores in Brooklyn and the Bronx. “My rule was not to spend more than $5 on a piece except if it was spectacular,” she reveals. Then she adds, “I never used to wear jewelry, but now I wear a lot of it. Maybe this series was an excuse!”
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