Saturday, November 17, 2012


There are an insane number of pet pictures on the internet and there seems to be another book of puppies every other day, but when you like photography, books, and dogs you have to try to find something worthwhile. First in line is a thick thing that at a distance looks like any other book of puppies, but isn't. The Taschen published A thousand dogs is a thick (yes, Thick), soft-bound thing with 1000 (I assume) photographs of dogs.
However, instead of a collection of the 1000 currently cutest and cheapest pictures they could find they have collected a comprehensive historical selection of dog photographs. From 1839 and forward. The first are simple posed photographs made with some of the first cameras ever made, clearly showing the central role of dogs in our society across the years.
The book is divided into sections by years and includes some quite well-known photographers and photophraphs. The reproductions are quite good, at least matching the quality of the binding. It is a an interesting book both as a history of photography and for the wealth of images (of dogs), some of which are quite good.
Second out is the leading photographer of posed dogs, William Wegman. He has produced a number of books with his Weimaraner dogs. I picked the book Polaroids with pictures from an impressive 20x24in large-format camera. 
Some are more or less silly Weimaraners in clothes, but some are exquisitely posed humanesque dog photos. Let me just say that these are nor pictures you could make with boxers. No boxer I ever met would stand still matching paws with another boxer posing as it's shadow. At least not for long enough to make a large-format photograph.
Weimaraners, however, seem perfectly suited to the job. Some of the images are accompanied by short stories about how they were made and what Wegman was thinking or trying to create.  The book as such is a quite well-made soft-bound book of a size that is easy to handle. The reproductions are fine, and the dogs are cute.
Another book of posed dogs is Tim Flach's Dogs Gods. It is what we in Sweden call "praktverk", no expense has been spared. The binding is excellent, the format is non-standard. There are different high-quality photos on the binding and the dust-jacket. The reproductions are among the best available for large-production colour printing.
It is not quite as luscious, and not nearly as varied or complete as his book about horses Equus. Almost all photos are carefully posed and lit images. With only a few natural light - natural behaviour images sprinkled on top.
As with Equus there are some images that by their setting must have been taken in the wild but with lighting and posing that are nothing short of miraculous. Among dogphotobooks, this is the most equal of them all.
The nestor of dog-photography is Magnum's Elliot Erwitt. Elliot Erwitt's Dogs is a new collection of some of his most iconic dog photographs, as well as a number less well-known pictures. It includes a foreword in English, German, French, Spanish and Italian (as any proper book should). Elliot Erwitt represents the opposite of Wegman and Flach in that the book is all black and white, and while there are some studio shots the vast majority of photographs are of dogs doing what dogs do. They are ungroomed, sniffing each other, licking themselves or just taking a piss. If they are posed it is just the look-at-the-camera pose, or, they might be barked at. Something Erwitt is known for doing.
The book is a very nice folio hardback with excellent reproductions, although as is common with high quality black and white reproductions there is a bit of gloss differential. The book is too big to hand-hold but just right for opening in your lap while sitting in a leather armchair sipping a whisky.

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