French Photographer Sophie Gamand and ‘The Invisible Wounds of Friendship’

French Photographer Sophie Gamand and ‘The Invisible Wounds of Friendship’ cover

Sophie Gamand is the patron saint of pit bulls in flower crowns. “For decades, pit bulls have been demonized by society and portrayed as hellhounds,” the French photographer says of the idea behind Pit Bull Flower Power, an ongoing series that celebrates the playful and affectionate nature of the breed. “They’ve become the most feared, hated, and abused of all companion animals,” she continues. “Some cities and even entire countries ban them, while the media persist in associating them with viciousness. This unjust reputation has sealed the fate of millions of dogs, who face prejudice around the world, [and] languish in shelters where they are the most euthanized [of any breed].”

But Sophie, who now lives and works in L.A., doesn’t play favorites when it comes to man’s best friend. Her work swerves from pit bulls and mutts to Mexican hairless and toy breeds so small they could be tucked in tiny purses. Primarily a photographer, Sophie works with cyanotype, embroidery, and even augmented reality (AR) to create the specific feeling she’s after. “I don’t want the message to be limited by the medium,” she says, explaining her thirst for new skills that challenge and ultimately reinforce her practice. “Some stories are better told with other media.”

Now based in L.A., award-winning artist Sophie Gamand reveals the one-sided, exploitative nature of the human-dog relationship—and what we can do to fix it.
‘Halo’ (from ‘Pit Bull Flower Power’)
Now based in L.A., award-winning artist Sophie Gamand reveals the one-sided, exploitative nature of the human-dog relationship—and what we can do to fix it.
‘Snowball Leading’ (from ‘The Invisible Woulds of Friendship’)

No body of work in Sophie’s oeuvre proves her point quite like The Invisible Wounds of Friendship, a series of cyanotypes she printed using x-ray images of injured, sick, or pregnant dogs. A UV-reactive photographic process with a characteristic blue hue, the cyanotype technique perfectly captures the depth of pain and suffering we inflict on our closest companions. “Dogs come into the rescue system injured, sick, hurting,” says Sophie, who’s seen the inner workings of that system firsthand. “More often than not, their illnesses or injuries are the direct results of their proximity with humans.”

Last October, Sophie’s solo show of the same name opened in L.A. at Naked Eye Studio. Instead of an exhibition of cyanotypes, The Invisible Wounds of Friendship showcased Sophie’s most celebrated work from over a decade of photographing at-risk dogs around the U.S. While cyanotypes made an appearance, so did embroidery, paintings, and photos from her Pit Bull Flower Power series. “As a child, what attracted me to animals—and dogs especially—was the lack of common language,” says Sophie in a statement for the exhibition. “I found the human language to be cumbersome, confusing. It was so easy to be misconstrued or have my words weaponized against me. With animals, everything flowed so easily. But for the past decade, in observing dogs and their humans, I have worried that this lack of common language can lead to far more dangerous misunderstandings.”

‘The Invisible Woulds of Friendship’ (installation view)
Now based in L.A., award-winning artist Sophie Gamand reveals the one-sided, exploitative nature of the human-dog relationship—and what we can do to fix it.
‘Silver Frame’
‘Silver Frame’ (detail)

One of the exhibition’s standout pieces, a video installation surrounded by artificial flowers called The Silver Frame, transports viewers to an animal control facility in Puerto Rico where euthanasia rates regularly climb over 90 percent, and the survival rate for newborn puppies is near zero. “I think we really need to take a hard look at ourselves, how we breed dogs, and how we keep them,” says Sophie, who believes human gender dynamics have a devastating impact on our relationship with dogs. “Dog trainers—often men—teach us the concept of ‘pack leader’ and dominance over dogs. It’s very toxic. They tell us you must show dogs who is the boss, roll them on their back, yank their leash. It is violent. But in reality, dogs are extremely smart, adaptable, sensitive, spiritual, eager-to-please companions.”

Sophie’s own smart, sensitive, eager-to-please companion, MacLovin, is a multi-mutt she rescued from a hellish animal control facility in Puerto Rico. “He is a daily reminder of the beauty and depth that non-human animals carry,” she says. “And of how silenced and misunderstood they all are. My greatest joy has been to give Mac more agency in his life and be his guardian so he can be safe as he ventures into the big world.” When asked what she sees for the future of humans and dogs, Sophie emphasizes the two-way street of friendship. “We now order them online!” she says, disgusted. “That’s why I will always adopt and encourage people to adopt. Go meet your new friend, and give them a chance to choose you, too. That’s the foundation of true friendship.”

“I think we really need to take a hard look at ourselves, how we breed dogs, and how we keep them.” — Sophie Gamand

‘Junior’ (from ‘Ear Reconstruction’)
Now based in L.A., award-winning artist Sophie Gamand reveals the one-sided, exploitative nature of the human-dog relationship—and what we can do to fix it.
‘Totopo’ (from ‘Black Dog’)
Now based in L.A., award-winning artist Sophie Gamand reveals the one-sided, exploitative nature of the human-dog relationship—and what we can do to fix it.
‘Ciabatta’ (from ‘Black Dog’)
Now based in L.A., award-winning artist Sophie Gamand reveals the one-sided, exploitative nature of the human-dog relationship—and what we can do to fix it.
‘Blossom’ (from ‘Black Dog’)
‘Lisa, Who Holds the World’
‘Untitled (Waiting)’
‘Take Me Home’
‘Rosie’ (from ‘Survivors of the Dog Meat Trade’)
‘Gregg’ (from ‘Survivors of the Dog Meat Trade’)
‘We Cannot Help But Touch’
Sophie Gamand with embroidered tapestry ‘The Theatrics of Fight/Play’; photo: Michele Thomas

Sophie Gamand: Website | Instagram | Facebook | Purchase Work

All photos published with permission of the artist(s); featured image: ‘Snowball and Arnie.’

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Tags

animal art, animal portrait, contemporary photography, cyanotype, dog art, dog photography, dog portrait, dogs, embroidery, french artist, los angeles artist, photographer, Pinned, pit bulls, rescue dogs, sophie gamand


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