Upsetting Day: William Wegman’s Sensual Dogs 🌭

Sometimes when a grifter grifts, it’s actually our fault. They were simply putting a product on the market, and it was the public who fell for it so hard it became a grift. For instance, I know art is subjective, but there was a time in the ’90s when everyone flipped their shit for pictures of haunted dogs dressed as people. Everyone was so willing to pay big money for high fashion nightmare dog photos that newer work from the artist is currently selling for around twenty thousand U.S. dollars.

William Wegman’s dog with people’s body photos suddenly appeared one day in every midwestern grandmother’s bathroom at once. I get that placement– that is clearly where these dogs belong, but they’re also somehow considered high-fashion works of art. The dogs were in Vogue magazine multiple times. Anna Wintour let them into the Met Gala before Kim Kardashian, probably. I find it hilarious that the first man with a fancy degree in art to come up with putting a hat on a dog was able to make a billion dollars.


Wegman did commercial stuff like the Honda commercial where dogs with human hands love Honda. Honestly, not a selling point if you ask me. If Honda attracts dogs with people’s bodies, I’m staying the fuck away from that brand. I guess I’m the only sane person looking to purchase an affordable, family-friendly vehicle that mutants won’t attack. I just want a car that self-destructs when it detects dog minotaurs. The William Wegman stuff that I find funniest is when he gets very serious and turns his critical artist’s eye on the dog hats, like in his coffee table book of fashion photographs.

To make sure they’re as artistic as possible, William took all of the photographs on the most inconvenient device possible, a 240-pound Polaroid 20X24 camera. It had to be rented from Polaroid and hauled around along with lighting equipment, drying racks, and generators in a rented box truck. Wegman said the camera was “unforgiving,” and he would take around 30-50 prints at a time, resulting in 2-3 photos he considered worth showing. All of this for something available 900 times a second on Tiktok today. I’m glad I was born in an era where silly dog photos are so accessible and don’t have the tone of a lich welcoming adventurers into its tomb.

Can you imagine watching someone unload this enormous, complicated piece of equipment, spend hours perfecting the lighting, prepare eighteen pounds of film, and boot up a generator to create a perfect photo? Then you find out that all of that effort was to take a weirdly horny picture of some not-quite-done-Animorphing dog in a designer dress. All of that for a photo so cursed even wikifeet won’t rate it? No matter how many times William Wegman asks?

The photo above is titled “Melissa,” which is the most upsetting possible title for it. Don’t name the dog woman you’ve created! She does look like a Melissa, though. I have to give him that. Other dog women photos are titled “Miss Mythical,” “Nurse, Nurse,” and “Glamour Puss.” If I were William Wegman’s agent, I would suggest his next coffee table book be called William Wegman Just The Horny Ones because weirdly spicy dog/human hybrids are a real under-examined throughline in all of his work. At first, I thought that wasn’t William’s fault. He’s a photographer who gives people what they want, and the people were clamoring for these sexy dog pics. “Let us watch Melissa pee,” they definitely hissed.

This man walked into Saks Fifth Avenue one day and said, “I’m going to make a book full of dogs in designer outfits. Would you like me to feature the clothing you sell and thank you in the acknowledgments?” and Saks Fifth Avenue agreed to this arrangement. They handed that man a Dolce & Gabbana Bikini and told him to go nuts. It’s not his fault that the world has enabled his bad impulses in this way. We are all guilty, each of us who didn’t stop it.

Don’t worry; it’s not just the girl dogs getting this treatment. He’s also got the boy dogs looking dapper as hell. This photograph from 1999 entitled “Opening” highlights how the dog looking naturally sad is part of it. Wegman promises the dogs love putting on their freaky little outfits. That despair is just their face! Deep existential dread is part of their breeding. That’s what makes the pictures so funny!

My opinion of this whole sexy dog situation changed pretty severely after I read the introduction William Wegman wrote for his fashion book where he described his dog Battina as “sexy and girlish even in maturity and motherhood.” This would be a creepy thing to say about a woman, but if you’re saying it about a female dog, it’s, hang on, let me check, worse. Yes, that’s worse. In fact, he doesn’t seem able to describe a dog in a way that doesn’t sound like it’s a DJ introducing a burlesque dancer, a horrifying dog-headed burlesque monster.

He describes his male dog named Chundo as “the ultimate man, masculine and lordly.” Chip is “a mere boy, but a devastatingly handsome one. His precious adolescence conveys an uncomplicated look of innocence seldom seen in the pages of today’s fashion magazines. Chip is the Hellenic Golden Age, the “David” of dogs.” He could have saved a lot of time by just saying the dog was hot. We get it, dude; you think the dog is hot. Why don’t you take some erotic photos about it? Oh, wait:

I personally enjoy some of the less horny William Wegman photos. A lazy Wegman is great. If my photos sold for 20K a pop, I would relish the days that I could phone it in. I would feel like I deserved to be able to do a few lazy ones, and hey, maybe they only sell for a jet-ski price instead of a full boat. So, when I see a picture that’s just a forced perspective of a small dog standing on a regular dog, I finally understand the medium, and that makes me feel like a fancy art lady in a way that a dog in a bikini doesn’t.

There’s a finite amount of creativity the human brain is capable of. Some days the only innovation you have in you is…what if we put two hats on the dog? Could you charge twice as much for that photo? Why not try? Have the audacity, William Wegman! This is infinitely better than his other stuff. I’m sorry for what I said earlier. Let’s keep adding more hats. The hats are great, actually.

I’m sorry if I’ve ruined dogs with human bodies for you. A lot of people have fond memories of these little creeps from their segments on Sesame Street. They used to do whole sketches as fun little monsters who taught kids valuable lessons like how to steal eggs out of a bowl or how to make direct eye contact with the dark void of death on the distant horizon.

I hope that’s how you’re able to remember the Wegman dogs. Wegman’s evolution to the world of artistic, sexy, fashion dogs makes me think maybe evolution is bad after all. Laurels can be a great place to rest. If he had stopped at Sesame Street, his career wouldn’t have this haunting final footnote attached.

So many artists’ careers these days start making quality content and end selling feet pics. It’s the new circle of artistic life! Which I guess means this Patreon is about to get weird. Stay tuned!

This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme: Hambone, the courageous WikiFeet editor who saw William Wegman’s were-dog feet and said “no, this institution will retain its dignity.”

6 replies on “Upsetting Day: William Wegman’s Sensual Dogs 🌭”

Look, the only fake arms that it is okay for an animal to have are obviously fake animal paw sticks like with Toonces the Driving Cat. For perhaps the ultimate in this folk art is the film One Cool Dog (2010), where the titular dog’s inarticulate puppet paws are able to drive a car, play harmonica, and implicitly murder entire trucks’, trains’, and boats’ worth of people as he tries to reunite with his human child.

Conversely, in sex pest Kevin Spacey’s bizarrely well-budgeted Donald-Trump-turns-into-a-cat-by-a-magic-Christopher-Walken-and-doesn’t-really-learn-any-lessons picture, Nine Lives (2016), Barry Sonnenfeld made the intriguing but ultimately detrimental decision to rely on fake puppet paws with some joints and articulation in some scenes rather than exclusively CGI. While these apparatus did allow for some ambitiously stupid puppetry, they did not use what they had built to bring Kevin Spacey’s cat paws to the sides of his cat head to express cat astoundment. Really dropped the ball (of yarn) on that one, Barry.

I vividly remember how Tim Kreider once described Wegman as the living embodiment of the artist who’s given up on art: every day, without doubt, uncertainty, or hesitation, he takes a picture of his dogs, and he makes money.

I feel like that assurance of success is the only reason why I can’t call the whole thing a grift. Grifters always run the risk of losing everything or being exposed. Wegman posed his dog in an Enterprise-D uniform next to a bunch of cutouts and became a millionaire. This feels more like an esoteric joke in a Nordic crime drama.

Yeah; I don’t think you can call it grifting when people know what they’re buying. (And even if they were confused, that’s not really Wegman’s fault. If someone tried to sue him saying they only spent tens of thousands of dollars on one of his pictures because they thought it was definitive proof of their lifelong conviction that an elite secret society of dog people control all world governments, I think most people are gonna take Wegman’s side on that. )

On the other hand, the pictures and their sale prices are basically a perfect thesis statement on some of the drawbacks of free market capitalism. Like, if you were a North Korean propagandist trying to show the evil decadence of western countries, you could pretty much just run this article through Google Translate and take the rest of the week off.

I remember a big thing being people freaking out over Wegman potentially making Weimeraners too popular and having people buy them without doing research, the same way the 101 Dalmations movie did for that breed. Like, they look placid in the pictures, but apparently they’re actually maniacs that will chew everything if you don’t train the hell out of them.

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