William Wegman

by Chris Duesing

Even if you have never heard of William Wegman, you have probably seen photos of his trademark Weimaraner dogs in funny, yet sincere poses.

William Wegman Educational Background

William Wegman was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts on December 2, 1943. He received a Bachelors of Fine Arts in painting from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston in 1965. Two years later, he received a Masters of Fine Arts degree from the University of Illinois Champagne, Urbana.

The Inspiration of William Wegman

William Wegman, who spent much of his early career teaching others, started his teaching career at the University of Wisconsin (1968 to 1970). He then moved to California State College at Long Beach for a one-year teaching stint. During these years, William Wegman became more interested in mediums other than painting.

An artistic revelation occurred one night when Wegman was at a party. He reached down to get a circular piece of salami and was suddenly struck by that image, that moment in time. He immediately took up photography, learning as much as he could just so he could capture those types of images on film. “Cotto” was one of his first photographic pieces in a series based on very ordinary objects.

The Trademark Weimaraner Dogs of William Wegman

It wasn’t long before another instance of chance inspired Wegman. After tossing a coin, Wegman purchased a Weimaraner dog that he named Man Ray (named after the famed avant-garde photographer). This dog eventually became the subject of many of his photographs. Man Ray’s silver fur and straight-on deadpan expression became a phenomenon in the art world. Wegman and his new best friend moved to New York, where his career had a rousing start.

Other Weimaraner dogs have been important to Wegman’s life and work, including Fay Ray, and her offspring Battina, Crooky and Chundo. Other dogs that have joined in this line-up are consistent subjects of Wegman’s photos. The artist has the Weimaraner dogs specially trained so they will pose perfectly. Occasionally, he even dresses them up in human clothing, such as suits and dresses.

William Wegman Books

William Wegman uses his trademark dogs to make children’s books from Hyperion publishing filled with photos of his dogs. These include:

Wegman has also written several books for adults, such as Fay. Fay is the story about his life with his dog, Fay Ray. Puppies was the story of his dog litters. Hyperion published both titles, though Abrams publishing soon offered the public William Wegman 20 x 24, a survey of 30 years of Wegman’s work with a 20 x 24 inch Polaroid Photographic camera. Although the Polaroid was his principle medium for years, Wegman has recently used other types of cameras.

William Wegman Video Works

In addition to his still photographs, Wegman has arranged several video works that also feature his dogs. His works have appeared on Saturday Night Live and Nickelodeon. Wegman’s pieces have also been regularly featured on Sesame Street since 1989. In 1989, Wegman made a film with his dogs entitled The Hardly Boys, which was screened with some success at the Sundance Film Festival.

However, Wegman’s photo stills are the most famous of all of his work. William Wegman photo shows occur regularly throughout the world, and the artist currently resides in both New York and Maine where he continues to produce constant work. His photos have appeared in advertisements, posters, calendars and much more.

Further Reading
Chris Duesing
Chris Duesing

I am a photographer, writer, entrepreneur, and programmer living in the great city of Chicago. I love to solve problems with technology and share what I have learned along the way.