Catherine Ledner – Glamour Dogs 2009 courtesy Chronicle Books
I had been anticipating Catherine Ledner’s latest photobook Glamour Dogs after having a glimpse of her earlier exhibition photographs of wild animals. For this photobook, Glamour Dogs, her subject is a large group of dog breeds using a similar stylistic portrait formula as her earlier wild animal photographs.
Ledner’s canine subjects are being provided with either a unique posing device or they occupy a central place on the floor. Each dog is framed by a unique wall paper that has been paired with the animal to complement some aspect of her subject. The lighting, focus and use of color are all provide with a similar treatment for each photograph. Her subjects are usually centered in the frame, with some of the dogs providing direct eye contact with the lens, others focused just off-center or preoccupied with something else, perhaps the animal’s trainer or owner.
What I found interesting in Ledner’s earlier photographs was the odd mix of a wild animal in a very domestic appearing context, appearing to pose inside of a home, as symbolized by an interesting background wall paper motif. The feeling of strangeness is very much missing in these photographs, as these beautifully manicured dogs look everything like a pet that would be pampered in these domesticated settings.
Ledner does have a sly sense of humor in some of her selections of props and posing of the dogs, just enough to be a wink and a node, without an over the top and in your face slapstick visual pun. Although there are no puppies hanging by their paws on a clothes line, she does come close.
It appears to me that Ledner has found a formula that is developing into a nice commercial niche and a trademark style but regretfully at the expense of becoming slick and repetitious boring. In an attempt to be open-minded and provide a contrarian viewpoint; the art world has been replete with artists who once found something of a narrow interest, (e.g. repetitively painting the same tea-pot) that they continued to work it almost seemly to death. I just do not sense that type of creative investigation in this body of work
This photobook will appeal to the canine aficionados who will take delight in the varied character studies.
By Douglas Stockdale