Sophie Gamand, the amazing French photographer whose images of dogs are probably already beautifying your Instagram, has a new series that’s sure to make your heart swell. The series, called “Pit Bull Flower Power,” is working to help rescue pit bulls get adopted by showing them in a different, more positive light.
Between 800,000 and 1 million pit bull-type dogs are euthanized in the U.S. each year; if that number doesn’t shock you, it should! That’s almost 2,800 dogs killed every day, just because no one will adopt them. Gamand is hoping her work will change those numbers.
For each photograph, she poses the dog with a gorgeously intricate flower crown, capturing peacefulness and grace. Through her lens, the stereotypes about pit bulls fall away and we see the dogs for what they are — wanting nothing more or less than your love.
Gamand started the project about a year ago, while she was volunteering as a photographer at an animal shelter and often dealt with pit bulls.
“The stories I had read in the media, the fact that they are banned in my home country, France, and being mauled by a large herding dog in my childhood made me feel apprehensive around them,” Gamand told HelloGiggles in an interview. “This project was a way to get to know them better. The first time I tied a flower crown around a pit bull’s head, at a local shelter, I thought for sure I would get bit or something terrible would happen. But she just sat there, looking at me with deep, soulful eyes. There was so much depth and wisdom in her face. I knew the series had found a meaning that went beyond what I had anticipated.”
Her goal is to challenge the way we look at pit bulls. As she says, “I am curious to see the power of art, how it can influence the way we deal with the world around us. If those pictures were the only image we had of pit bulls, would we still be afraid?”
She’s definitely succeeding! Since starting the project, she’s photographed about 250 pooches, all of which are from shelters. Plus, she does this work for free.
Her photography can truly make a difference for shelter animals, because it creates an incredible, compassionate connection between the animals and potential adopters. Although it’s super hard to estimate how many dogs have been adopted as a result of her images, she did say that the shelters have seen an increase in their followers, audience and interest in adoption. Gamand keeps tally on her website of which dogs she’s photographed that have been adopted and which are still waiting for homes.
While this project is amazingly beneficial to shelter dogs who just need a loving home, she has also had an incredible realization about humans through working with animals:
“Interestingly, the more I work with rescues, the more compassion I have for humans. Usually, it’s the other way around, because you see so much horror and abuse, you cannot help but hate the people who do these things. But I was always empathic to all beings. Seeing what we do with dogs, makes me see our own shortcomings, our loneliness, and how much thirst we have for love and compassion.”
Gamand is also realistic about the controversial public opinion of pit bulls, and how strong these dogs are. On her site, she tells the story of one dog in particular named Mickey, hashing out why Mickey has come to live a life behind bars. It’s an important, if heartbreaking, read.
As for how long Gamand will keep up her canine work, “I can’t tell you when I will stop doing what I do,” she says. “Maybe when there are no more animals being euthanized for no other reason than our own shortcomings? Or maybe when too many photographers will have the same idea and my work won’t be so special — or needed — anymore!”
One thing is for sure: these dogs have changed her life at least as much as she’s changed theirs. From the release of her first book, Wet Dog, to gallery shows in Paris, and even awards for her work in animal advocacy, Gamand’s photographs have been warmly received and widely acclaimed.
“To think that a couple of years ago I was ready to give up! The only thing that kept me going was photographing shelter dogs. I guess they gave me back more that I could ever imagine.”
Follow Sophie Gamand on Instagram! Also, check out other ways you can support her work and rescue efforts, through this calendar and these prints. 100 percent of the proceeds go to Mr. Bones & Co., the rescue group that saved her most recent foster dog, Tucker.
(All images courtesy of the artist)