Fotografiska’s Represents How Integral Dogs Are to Their Parents’ Lives
Partial ticketing proceeds for the show will benefit actress Katherine Heigl’s Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, an organization dedicated to animal welfare.
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When you think of Best in Show, it’s hard to not immediately think of Christopher Guest’s brilliant 2000 mockumentary about the competitive dog show world with hilarious performances and even cuter dogs. I mean, God does love a Terrier. At the heart of the film are the people who unequivocally adore their pets to the point of utter madness — but isn’t that all of us?
Fotografiska New York hones in on that sentiment with their new photo exhibit aptly titled Best in Show — a celebration of pets and the undying love of their parents. The show, which opened Friday, September 22 and runs through January 2024, features photographs from 25 global artists alongside video installations and sculptures on two floors of the venue.
The purpose of “Best in Show”
Sophie Wright, executive director of Fotografiska New York, spoke in a press release about how the exhibit was conceived during the pandemic when pet parenthood grew: “It’s now rare to walk down a pavement in New York or any big city without passing several dogs and their devoted owners...This exhibition brings together celebrated New Yorkers, such as William Wegman and Elliott Erwitt, along with an international roster of contemporary practitioners to explore our relationship to our pets, in all its complexity.”
Aside from more immersive art that are shown in this exhibit, there are over 130 photographs, ranging from candid snaps, portraits, documentary style photos, and more. There’s a bevy of incredible artists who are known for documenting pets in unexpected ways. That includes work from visual artist Sophie Gamand, who is well known for her series Wet Dog and Pit Bull Flower Power. The show features photos from both series, and for Gamand, it’s a fitting moment for her career.
A word from some of the artists
“I shot my Wet Dog series exactly 10 years ago, so this feels like a full circle,” Gamand tells The Wildest. “It is the series that changed my life and propelled my career. Before Wet Dog, I wasn’t sure it was possible to make a living pursuing my own projects in dog photography. William Wegman was a big inspiration, but I had no idea how to make it happen.” She continues: “Until I photographed Wet Dog almost by accident. The project went viral, and I signed a book deal and won prestigious photo awards. Ten years later, I still love this series so much and my career has taken me to places I never expected.”
For Gamand, the exhibit is a way to highlight the inner lives of our pets, and to understand them in ways that go beyond merely pet and parent. That’s also something that photographer Dolly Faibyshev explores in her work, specifically in her series Best in Show, which looks at dogs behind the scenes of the pet-show world. Faibyshev’s initial interest in photography was, in part, inspired by dogs.
“Animals are interesting subjects to photograph; they are not at all self-conscious in front of the camera, unlike humans,” she tells The Wildest. “When I first became interested in photography, I discovered Elliott Erwitt’s work (who I’m so excited to be showing alongside in this show), whose beautiful photos of dogs made me realize that even though the dog is part of the image, it’s really about the photograph and not the dog.”
The activism behind the project
Beyond educating people about their relationship with their pets and how those relationships play out in culture, Fotografiska is also eager to highlight advocacy for pets. They’ve partnered with Emmy-winning actress Katherine Heigl, who has been a longtime animal activist, and her pet nutrition brand, Badlands Ranch. For Heigl, partnering on the exhibit was a no-brainer.
“Animals and art are two things I am very passionate about, so I am excited to celebrate some of the world’s greatest animal photographers and artists while honoring our love for our pets,” she says in a press release. Partial ticketing proceeds for the show will benefit Heigl’s Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, which is an organization dedicated to animal welfare. Throughout the series’s September to January run, there’ll be a series of events, several of which will collaborate with Badass Animal Rescue to focus on adoption efforts.
For Gamand, whose series Pit Bull Flower Power was inspired in part by admonishing the cultural reputation that Pit Bulls have and getting her models adopted into good homes, there’s a lot of power in capturing animals in art.
“My work is always about challenging our perception,” she says of her project, which features Pit Bulls in flower crowns, allowing people to see them in a softer light. “When I started this project, I was curious to see if we could transform the way we treat Pit Bulls, by promoting a more positive and softer image of these misunderstood dogs...I think this project has transformed the culture around Pit Bulls, but maybe it wasn’t enough just yet since we still see a lot of discrimination happen against these dogs.”
So, the takeaway: Come to this exhibit to feel the giddy pride of pet parenthood, but stay for both understanding our beloved friends on a deeper level and learning more about how we can better care for them.
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Kerensa Cadenas is a writer based in New York. She’s previously worked at The Cut, Thrillist, Cosmopolitan, and Complex. Her work has been featured in Vulture, GQ, Vanity Fair, and others.