Fairy Tale Pups
These canine actors were nearly as famous as the roles they were playing in Rangeley.
- By: Joshua F. Moore
Image Courtesy of the Artist
A dog’s life takes on special meaning if you happen to be one of William Wegman’s weimaraners. Beginning with Man Ray, the first of the grey hunting dogs that Wegman purchased in 1970, and later continuing through Fay Ray and her offspring, the artist has used the breed’s deadpan expression to depict everything from the letters of the alphabet to supermodels. In the process, Wegman has turned the transfiguration of man’s best friend into an art form. Though many of his images are captured in the studio, he has also posed some of his pets in the woods near his vacation home in Rangeley.
That’s precisely where photographer Madeline de Sinéty captured the artist, standing just to the left of the massive twenty-by-twenty-four-inch Polaroid camera, back in 1992. In this photograph, included in an exhibit of de Sinéty’s work opening this month at the Portland Museum of Art, Fay Ray’s daughter, Battina, is dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, while her son, Chundo, on the left, serves as the wolf (he’ll also stand in as the woodsman, eventually). To give Battina the appearance of standing, Wegman has had her sit on a stool concealed beneath the shawl and plaid skirt — a testament to the dog’s ability to maintain a pose, and one that any dog-owner can appreciate.
For Wegman, who first bought a cabin on Loon Lake in 1978 as an escape from New York City, the dogs’ ability to maintain their poise even amid the sights, sounds, and smells of the Maine woods (not to mention the crew of assistants and onlookers who inevitably gather at a Wegman shoot) was an achievement that he could personally appreciate. “Although Cinderella was published first, Little Red Riding Hood was the fairy tale that I had a deeper affinity for. Walking in the woods is more my fantasy than going to a ball,” Wegman said in a hand-written journal he made recounting the process of creating the illustrated fairy tale. “The idea of an animal posing as a human is central to this story. The woods, the dogs, disguise and transfiguration are preoccupations of mine.”
And yet even while the artist has turned that preoccupation into a career, he never forgets that his weimaraners are also dogs that like to play, just like every other pup. Moments after de Sinéty turned her lens on the photographer and his models, Wegman treated Battina and Chundo to a game of fetch on this quiet Maine road — a bit of fun after a summer afternoon spent in front of the cameras.
- By: Joshua F. Moore