Even the biggest dog lovers might think twice before cuddling with a hairless breed. Sophie Gamand, who has been exclusively photographing dogs since 2010, felt the same way when she decided to do a series, “Prophecy,” focusing entirely on the mostly bald creatures.
“Usually my projects come from a place of being fearful of the subject or knowing nothing about it. I did a project of pit bulls wearing flowers because I was scared of pit bulls and I knew I had to confront those fears,” she said. “I had never touched a hairless dog before and I couldn’t understand the relationship people have with the way these dogs look.”
Once she had the idea, Gamand contacted breeders and rescue organizations specializing in hairless dogs. Initially, she thought she might try to make abstract photographs consisting of close-ups of the dogs’ skin. She also considered using romantic lighting and trying to make the dogs appear glamorous. Ultimately, however, she decided to photograph the dogs simply and directly, focusing on their distinct personalities and their faces, which to Gamand looked like those of old wise men and crazy scientists.
While there are several breeds of hairless dogs around the world, Gamand ended up focusing on just two of them: the Chinese crested and the Xoloitzcuintli, which is called Xolo for short.
“What I found during the shoots is that usually the Chinese cresteds are very shy and skittish. They’re very afraid of people and they almost always have their tail down. They don’t look at you. They run away from you when you touch them,” she said. “It was like working with a cat. I didn’t know how to interact with it.”
Her experience with the Xolo, one of the world’s oldest and rarest breeds, was exactly the opposite. “It was almost like working with wild or feral dogs. They have been domesticated for a while so they understand our codes, but they have a wild side,” she said.
Gamand photographed just a few inches from each dog’s face, partly out of a desire to capture them in as much detail as possible, and partly to help her confront her own discomfort with the animals.
“Putting a camera in a dog’s face is not an easy task; putting it in front of a Xolo’s face is nearly impossible. They were the hardest shoots I’ve done in my life,” she said.
While the Chinese Crested is commonly considered to be a breed engineered by breeders, the Xolo is thought to have become hairless through natural evolution. Showing the dogs together in one series, Gamand hopes, can start a conversation about the ethics of breeding.
“My work is about exploring the relationship we have with dogs and what that says about us as people. In this series, the idea is that dogs are the first example of men acting like gods toward nature. … I always feel my goal is to channel big questions but I’m not here to bring the answers.”
You can follow Gamand on Instagram.
Correction, March 2, 2015: This post originally misidentified the dogs Godfrey and Hamster in their photo captions.