By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Kyle Swenson
By David Villano
By Kyle Swenson
By John Thomason
By Michele Eve
A virtual who's who of great photographers is represented throughout the show, confirming that dogs have exerted a hold of some sort on almost every great photographer. In the first two galleries we get Weegee, Paul Strand, William Henry Fox Talbot, Edward Steichen, August Sander, Man Ray, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, André Kertész, Margaret Bourke-White, Diane Arbus, and Larry Clark. And, of course, there's the famous William Wegman and his soulful-looking Weimaraners, including Untitled (How They Are Towards Newspapers) (1973), a witty self-portrait of the photographer reading one section of a newspaper while another section lies crumpled and shredded on the floor beside a dog.
Wegman also turns up in the third gallery, which emphasizes more recent works by such photographers as Robert Mapplethorpe, Peter Hujar, Duane Michals, Joel-Peter Witkin, Mary Ellen Mark, Helmut Newton, and Annie Leibovitz. (Newton contributes a casual 1988 shot, Timothy Leary, Barbara Leary and Beau, while Leibovitz offers the 1998 portrait William Wegman Holding Fay Ray.)
But some of the most powerful shots in the show were taken by photographers who remain anonymous. In Guard Dog (1940), a bulldog wearing a helmet sits under a "BEWARE THE DOG" sign alongside a stack of sandbags; the image is comical but also a reminder of the dog's loyalty in wartime. A World War I photo from around 1917 shows a dog leaping over a soldier in a foxhole. And, in a 1915 picture, we see a Russian army battalion crowded onto a hillside, its faithful mascot resting at the feet of one of the soldiers.
The main body of the exhibition builds up to several documentary-style photos in the second gallery that demonstrate how dogs are ever-present in our lives, even in times of great turmoil. A large, anonymous print called German Army Retreat from Leningrad(1944) features a dog in front center, facing us, as the soldiers recede into the blurry, snowy landscape.
Charles Moore's Birmingham, Alabama(1963) shows cops with attack dogs going after a black man during a protest. Fazal Sheikh's Afghanistan (1996) captures the desolation of that country long before the U.S. invasion by populating an otherwise empty space with a dog and a single man far in the background. David Burnett's Vietnam (1994) places a dog among the gravestones of soldiers.
Closer to us in time and space, the exhibition also presents a small selection of shots of dogs participating in the rescue efforts after the September 11 attacks (and one of a dog dwarfed by the World Trade Center towers before they fell). These emotionally charged images, as well as the ones in the rest of the show, reaffirm another of the posted quotes, this one from the late animal-rights activist Roger Caras: "Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole."