On the Road
William Wegman is probably the world's best-known photographer of dogs. Last month, he unveiled two huge murals at a service plaza on the Maine Turnpike.
(Photo by Rahav Segev / Photopass for the Boston Globe)
How do you feel about having your photographs hanging above a food court?
It's kind of a coup to be integrated into a place you're not used to being. The space is pretty minimal and not too tacky. I was originally thinking of a narrative, dressing up the dogs and having lobster pots and scenes, but once I saw the [Kennebunk] space, I felt this would work better.
The murals, like much of your work, depict groups of your Weimaraners. Do these particular photographs suggest Maine to you in some way?
There's one that I made [Acadia, which will be installed at a service plaza in West Gardiner] based on my experiences on Mount Desert Island. That one we built in my studio in New York with those scenes in mind. The others I chose from recent work. Mooselook reminded me of Maine's lake district, and the other [Flock] reminded me of the sea.
In Flock, several dogs are shown on a beach, and they're looking up in unison. How do you get a group of dogs to cooperate like that?
Let's just say I used a ball. If you toss it high in the air, they crane. I don't like to use treats, because of the drool factor. And I want to get a look that's not food.
What about Mooselook - was your goal to get the dogs to look like moose?
In Mooselook, I see more than moose. I see it as music, in a way. The dogs are also like church deacons, greeting you as you walk in. There is eye contact.
Why do you use Weimaraners in most of your work?
Because they're here, and that's not a tongue-in-cheek answer. I tend to use whatever is around me. Weimaraners have a way of staring at you all the time. They're always next to me, saying, "What's up?" The other reason I've been able to use them over and over is that they are a neutral gray. They disappear in the environment. It's something I've never gotten sick of since I started to work with them. They have this urge to work, and yet they have this stillness about them that's useful to me.
Why do you think your art was chosen instead of something more conventional?
The dogs are kind of stand-ins for other things. They are kind of elusive and ghostlike. I think for a space like this, it's good to have something that's not boringly right or strangely way off.
Did the Maine Turnpike Authority, which paid about $100,000 for the artwork, get a bargain?
We wanted to make it so they could afford it. I'm very uncomfortable talking about that, because I'm a pure artist, you know what I mean? There wasn't a lot after expenses. But just having them there is fantastic.