Skin Deep: Photographer Sophie Gamand’s Portraits Reveal the Inner Beauty of Hairless Dogs

Sophie Gamand is an award-winning photographer and animal advocate. Since 2010, her powerful and whimsical photography has focused on dogs and our relationship with them. She works closely with animal shelters and rescue groups to help promote adoption and animal welfare. 

We recently interviewed Gamand about how she became a professional animal photographer and, in particular, what draws her to photographing hairless dogs, which has become a recent focus.

©Sophie Gamand

Shutterbug: Please give us some background on your photography career.

Gamand: I am a self-taught photographer. After I moved to New York in 2010, I started focusing exclusively on dogs. I am fascinated by the relationship we have with dogs, and what it says about us. My career really took off in 2014 when my Wet Dog series received international recognition (I won a Sony World Photography Award, secured a book deal with Grand Central Publishing, etc.). I am now navigating both the fine-art and commercial photography scenes and doing editorial work as well.

©Sophie Gamand

Shutterbug: Hairless dogs are very unique looking and are not breeds that some would describe as being “cute.” Are you a dog owner? What inspired you to create this portrait series?

Gamand: I don’t own a dog, but I work with them all the time. Through photography, I explore subjects that intrigue or scare me. In the case of hairless dogs, I was really intrigued by their strange beauty, and the way people often find them disgusting looking. I wondered if I could photograph them beautifully, and what it would take. I wanted to understand them better. I decided to photograph them with sexy lighting, and fully embrace their beauty. 

©Sophie Gamand

Shutterbug: How many dogs did you photograph for the series, and were they easy to work with?

Gamand: I photographed about 30 dogs for the series. They were quite difficult to work with because most of them were either very shy, skittish or so independent they wanted nothing to do with a photo shoot! 

©Sophie Gamand

Shutterbug: How do you capture the images? What gear do you use and do you enhance the shots with Photoshop?

Gamand: There was no enhancing done in Photoshop for this series. I worked with three or four light sources and I photographed the dogs from up-close. The shoots were difficult and intense. It is not easy to put a lens so close to a dog that is shy or aloof. But I wanted this experience with my models, and I wanted that feeling in the photos, as if they had grabbed my shoulders and were shouting some important message.

©Sophie Gamand

Shutterbug: What advice would you give others who want to create pet portraits that are unique and creative?

Gamand: Animal portraiture is just like regular portraiture. You may think everything has already been done with the subject, but there is always more to be done. Being unique and creative is the secret to creating unique and creative images! So I don’t really know what advice I could give, other than be the best you can be. Look at what inspires you, which artist, what kind of light, composition and subject matter. Look at what others have done and let it inspire you. Take what others have done as far as you possibly can. Twist it, merge it with other ideas you have, make it complex and different. 

©Sophie Gamand

Shutterbug: What other projects are you working on these days?

Gamand: I recently finished my Wet Dog book (publication date: October 13, 2015). I am about to release my new series, featuring hairless dogs in a natural environment. It’s a fine-art project that is very dear to my heart. I am also continuing my Flower Power series—photographing shelter pit bulls wearing flower crowns. I hope to take that project on the roads of America in order to bring awareness to all the pit bulls out there who are being abused, abandoned and euthanized. In my work I want both the beautiful and the heartbreaking. I want to fight for causes I believe in, like animal welfare, while creating beautiful imagery that makes people dream. 

©Sophie Gamand

For more info, visit Gamand’s website or her Instagram feed: @SophieGamand.