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2020 Through the Eyes of Dogs

William Wegman and a cutout of one of his dogs, Bobbin, in 2008. Credit Tim Mantoani
William Wegman and a cutout of one of his dogs, Bobbin, in 2008. Credit Tim Mantoani

Even I, who pay almost no attention to anything, can see that this year has been a nightmare. While thinking about the state of the world, I came across two old photos of mine, 20-by-24-inch Polaroids made in 2005.

The model in both photos is Mazzy, a blue Weimaraner who belonged to my assistant, Marlo Kovach. I have never met a dog who liked being photographed more than Mazzy, and I worked with her often. She was addicted to bright light, to the blast of illumination from the strobes that surrounded her on the set.

The first photo, “Splitting Image,” is a foreboding picture of a dark dog with luminous eyes set in a gloomy interior, looking out over a cut out, miniature version of itself. One dog, detached from itself, stares off into the distance behind us while the other looks right at the viewer. One is vigilant; the other is worried, disembodied.

The second photo, “Eyes,” takes that disembodied gaze and multiplies it. It has a disorienting, almost wild look. It also appears to be a monochromatic image, but, if you look closer, you can see that it’s actually in color. Mazzy’s eyes are a phosphorescent and sinister lime green. They’re dark and foreboding, an endless loop of separation, of things not as black and white as they might seem.

These two images always seemed ominous to me, but only now, in the context of 2020, am I starting to truly understand them.

William Wegman is a photographer and artist.

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