Sophie Gamand will be exhibiting ‘Flower Power’ at PhotoVille this year, and at her gallery in Paris in March 2017.
Sophie won 1st place in the Professional Portraiture category of the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards. The 2017 Flower Power calender will be released on her website from 19 September, and she will be signing copies during Photoville.
Hi Sophie, It’s great you’ll be exhibiting ‘Flower Power’ at PhotoVille later this month, can you tell us what to expect from your exhibition? Will you be doing any talks?
This exhibit will be my first solo exhibit in the U.S.! For the first time, my American supporters will be able to see a selection of large prints from my Flower Power series. This year I won’t be taking part in the talks, but I assume I will be quite busy at the container of the exhibit, and I hope visitors will have lots of questions about dogs, pit bulls, shelter dogs and photography. I expect dog visitors, including some of my models who are still looking for homes. Over the weekend,24 and 25 September, several of them will come hang out, to see if they can meet their new families. I love that my work allows me to create bridges in communities and find homes to homeless pets.
You won 1st Place in the Portraiture of 2014 Sony World Photography Awards for your series ‘Wet Dog’ what have you been up to since winning the award?
Since the award, my book Wet Dog came out (Grand Central Publishing). It was a dream come true! Then a couple of months after winning the award, I created Flower Power and have been working full time on the project since then. I travel the U.S. photographing pit bulls in shelters, some of which have been waiting for homes for 3 or 4 years. My work has found meaning, and it’s very rewarding.
Where did your inspiration for shooting dogs first come from?
It came from my natural shyness, and social awkwardness I guess! After I moved to the U.S. in 2010, I didn’t have a social network here, so I had to reinvent everything, and connect to strangers. When you are a child, it comes fairly easily, but as an adult, it’s actually really challenging to meet people and create relationships. The camera became a very useful tool, and the dogs became an element of connectivity with people. Dogs became my way in. Soon, I discovered the world of dog rescue, people who dedicate their lives saving animals. I knew I had to take part somehow.
Can you tell us abit about your work for fighting BSL (Breed Specific Legislation)?
When you become a pit bull advocate like I did, through my Flower Power project, you soon learn about BSL and all the absurdity that comes with. BSL is when authorities decide to ban a specific breed, or a type of dog, based on their assumption that these dogs are inherently dangerous. They don’t take into account the individuality of the dogs, their temperament or personality, nor do they take into consideration who the owners are, and how the dogs are being treated, socialized or raised. I have a huge problem with that, because it’s a form of “dog-racism” and it’s an outdated, narrow-minded view of our dog companions. I think our societies can do much better. The problem with BSL is that it is ineffective in solving the issue of dangerous dogs, and it leads to the euthanasia of countless innocent dogs. Since the 80s, pit bulls have been the target of these laws, which are often reversed now that science has proven that breeds are not the issue. People are.
So with my work and through my social media platforms, I try to educate people about BSL, and teaching people to keep an open mind. There are other ways to fight dangerous dogs. It’s a human issue. Dangerous dogs are the ones who have been mistreated, neglected, put into dangerous or simply uncomfortable situations. Dogs who bite have been subjected to stress. They are the victims of our ignorance when it comes to dog language and etiquette. We must educate people, instead of euthanizing a whole group of dog, blindly, without ever addressing the real issues. When a BSL is implemented, what happens is that all these dogs end up in shelters and nobody wants them. Shelters have to euthanize perfectly healthy, safe, wonderful pets. It’s been happening with pit bulls for so long! In the U.S. alone, 1.2 million dogs are euthanized every year in shelters. If we want to call ourselves a humane society, we must do better than this. BSL is a huge part of the issue.
Do you see more Dog led series in the future?
Absolutely. I find dogs very inspiring, and it’s a subject that has surprisingly been overlooked for a long time. Few artists have ventured into the depth of the subject. For me, photographing dogs is a way to observe humans, and to explore our own humanity. I don’t see myself as a dog photographer per se. My future protects will involve dogs, and I am starting to work on projects involving humans as well, and other animals. Compassion and inter-specie relationships are themes that fuel my work.