For more than 25 years, artist William Wegman (b. 1943) has been making brilliant and inventive photographs with the 20 x 24" Polaroid camera. In 1979, when Polaroid invited Wegman to try out this enormous camera, he began a series of photographs featuring his dog, Man Ray, initiating a remarkable collaboration. After Man Ray died in 1982, Wegman continued his exploration of the medium with non-canine subjects and, later, with the dog Fay Ray ...
For more than 25 years, artist William Wegman (b. 1943) has been making brilliant and inventive photographs with the 20 x 24" Polaroid camera. In 1979, when Polaroid invited Wegman to try out this enormous camera, he began a series of photographs featuring his dog, Man Ray, initiating a remarkable collaboration. After Man Ray died in 1982, Wegman continued his exploration of the medium with non-canine subjects and, later, with the dog Fay Ray and an expanding universe of her progeny.
Now published as a reduced-format paperback, William Wegman Polaroids gathers together the best of this work-hundreds of unique, large-format photographs-with an insightful essay by the artist exploring his experiences with the camera and his exceptional models. The book is not only a comprehensive survey but also a record of sustained artistic creativity and loving appreciation of the canine form that is bound to enchant a new generation of readers in this charming new format.
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. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
There's no shortage of opportunities to see photographer Wegman's work, with numerous books currently in print, together with a minor industry producing notecards, calendars, and T-shirts; his dog photographs may be some of the best-known images of any contemporary artist. This title showcases Wegman's efforts with the Polaroid 20 24 camera, although it is an open question as to whether the book's concept merits the publication of yet another Wegman title. Still, it is beautifully produced, with many color illustrations (almost all of his pet Weimaraners), foldouts, and a lively, easygoing text by Wegman, who studied art in the early 1970s when Conceptualism was at its most robust. His style developed out of the philosophical, questing strategies employed by Conceptual artists, and, while one can find echoes of those strategies here, absent is the searching, intellectual honesty that characterizes the best Conceptual art. Wegman's work is undeniably charming, often amusing, and occasionally quite moving. Given the exposure he has, however, libraries with limited budgets might consider purchasing books about lesser-known contemporary artists influenced by Conceptualism or one of several titles currently in print discussing the achievements of Conceptual art. For collections already possessing large holdings in art and photography.-Michael Dashkin, PricewaterhouseCoopers, New York Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.