New York based award-winning French photographer and animal advocate Sophie Gamand explores the relationship between humans and their four-legged friends. As men have genetically manipulated dogs to fulfill their own needs and desires, humans should take responsibility towards them and the way they are treated.
„Each year, American animal lovers spend about $60 billion on food, veterinary care, kennels and other pet services. Yet each year in this same country, 3.9 million of dogs end up in animal shelters. That’s about 1 dog for 82 inhabitants. This dichotomy raises questions about us, humans, and our social interactions, as well as our relationship to nature and our environment, she explains,” having dedicated an entire series on pit bulls, the number one victims of prejudices that associate them with ultra-violence.
Through her series Flower Power: Pit Bulls of the Revolution, she aims to infuse a softer energy into their imagery, challenging the way we look at pit pulls, and ultimately the way we treat them. Inspired by Baroque and Rococo’s aesthetics, she uses flowers as they remind us that dogs are fragile and precious creatures.
For more check out the interview below and visit her website www.sophiegamand.com. You can also purchase prints, and a 2016 Flower Power calendar to help her fund the project (Flower Power Printshop, Wet Dog Printshop, Instagram Account).
How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
The official bio: Award-winning, French photographer and animal advocate living and working in New York, focusing on dogs and our relationship with them.
The secret bio: Always seeking, eternally unsatisfied, obsessed.
Whom do you look up to?
A better version of myself.
Are there any personalities that have contributed to your successful career path?
I used to run a contemporary photography magazine and interviewed countless artists, big or small, world-reknowned and amateurs. It taught me that all of us go through the same struggles, the same questioning. What separates successful artists with those who don’t make it are: an acute sense of self-discipline, the ability to challenge oneself and your art over and over again, and persistence.
How did your photographic career start? What made you want to become a photographer?
I always wanted to live through and with my art. Photography became my tool in 2010 when I discovered my obsession for photographing dogs. It wasn’t until late 2013 and going viral with my Wet Dog series, that I managed to actually make a living with my work and becoming “successful” that way.
What was your favourite project and why?
My favorite projects are: Wet Dog because it’s the series that revealed my work and allowed me to jump-start this career at last (my debut book just came out, titled Wet Dog). This project took me by surprise and taught me that you can’t plan everything. And the second favorite project is Flower Power, a series of pit bulls from shelters wearing flower crowns to dispel stereotypes associated with these dogs. I love this project because through it, my work became militant. Art with a cause. It’s a great feeling.
How do you define creativity?
The ability to connect with the source of all inspiration, tap into it and make something new with it. Creativity is about pushing inspiration as far as you can take it.
If you had one advice for someone seeking to live a creative life, what would you tell him?
Anyone can live a creative life. But if you want to make a living with your creative life, it’s a challenge. The key, in my opinion, is to be true to yourself. Don’t do what you think other people expect from you. Do you. And do it so well and with such persistence that a day will come when you will no longer be ignored. We have a word in French for that: incontournable. It means people can’t go around you anymore. Because you are so good, so true, so firmly grounded in your creative life, that people will have to recognize you and go through you.
Do you have a favourite quote that describes what you truly believe in? What`s your personal motto?
Be kind to yourself. It’s something I would love to live by. I am constantly so harsh with myself, my art, and everything that I am. Yet I am so kind and forgiving to the people and things around me. I wish I could apply that kindness to myself. I believe I have lost many years being my own enemy. I am trying to change that.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your career as a photographer?
Finding my voice and my place in a very crowded environment. Not only am I a photographer, but I am based in New York! Yet I believe everyone can find their true place and when you do, things become easier and people start coming to you for who you are. My niche is dog photography with an advocacy. Anyone who is into dogs and helping shelter dogs will know my work and come to me for that.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at 21?
Everyone is scared. Everyone struggles.
Is there anything for which you would be ready to give up your passion for photography?
I don’t consider myself passionate about photography. Photography is just a tool. I am picking up painting again, after many years. I also dream of myself as a writer one day. Photography is a shortcut to creating images and telling stories without having to hold a paint brush for weeks and struggle on that novel. I have a passion for my subjects, but not for the tool itself.