What I did managed to see: exhibition “Being Human”

It helps if you like dogs; or like a lark. For the photos exhibited in “Being Human” show dogs pretending to be … you, your friends, acquaintance and other human beings.

American photographer William Wegman (1943) started photographing Man Ray. No, not the Man Ray; Wegman’s dog named after the famous photographer whose work Wegman admires. 

Somewhere in 1970, dog Man Ray had had enough. All those human beings getting photographed and becoming famous? What about the most perfect model: Weimaraner Man Ray himself? 

Being Human William Wegman

Dog Walker, 1990, Colour Polaroid, © William Wegman,

Need one say more: a star was born! The modelling-habit also seems to run in this breed. The exhibited works show Weimaraner, but not all are Man Ray. Check the family-tree at the end of the exhibition, as well as exhibition texts.

Wegman and Man Ray became world-famous – kind of overnight. The museum itself has two works in its collection: “Stormy Night”(1972) and “Untitled” (or Three Legged Dog, 1974). Of course, these early works are part of this exhibition.

The exhibition was created in collaboration with guest curator William A. Ewing and the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography (FEP). The selected photographs cover four decades. After Man Ray died, it took a few years but then Wegman acquired another Weimaraner. Fay Wray, Candy and their descendants all became perfect pet models too.

Wegman is not just a photographer, but also creates paintings, drawings, videos, books and performances. This exhibition focusses just on one of his many artistic sides: photos of his Weimaraners. Several books about or by Wegman are on sale in the museum’s shop.

Being Human William Wegman

Farm Boy, 1996, Colour Polaroid, © William Wegman

In case you think “I don’t like animals having to perform” … Man Ray did not mind and started this, while the other dogs branched out into videos and television. The artist once explained: “They are only [being shot] maybe 30 seconds at a time. The rest of the time they’re sitting around, rather blasé about life.” You may be familiar with the short videos through guest appearances on Sesame Street.

Sauntering through this exhibition, it is difficult not to notice references to art and artists. Most photos share a certain ambiguity, irony, humour. (Pay attention to word-plays!) Setting, costumes, props: there definitely is a link not just with art, but the fashion industry.

Several photos refer to cubism, abstract expressionism, constructivism and conceptual art. But there are also examples of genres, like nude and portrait photography. However, this is not what interests Wegman. In this exhibition, it are his dogs imitating humans. Here are a housewife, lawyer, priest, yoga-specialist and others; some posing proudly, others less sure of themselves and plenty having a mischievous look.

Being Human William Wegman

Casual, 2002, Colour Polaroid. © William Wegman

Throughout the exhibition, there were plenty examples which made me snigger. Take “Dog Walker”, “Kid Napper”, “So Tired”, several fashion shoots, tales with a tail, and more. For you, other works will undoubtedly trigger a smile, or make you laugh. 

But that is not all. The quality of the photos is of course superb and inspiring. As for the models … try making your pet show off like them. 

The Hague, Fotomuseum: William Wegman “Being Human” ends 03-01-2021!

It is one of several exhibitions in this museum, but by far the funniest.Visit the museum’s website to check on COVID19 measures, to buy a compulsory ticket and for other information. Museum warned, this exhibition won’t be extended …

Introductory video: Fotomuseum – William Wegman “Being Human” © museum & the artist.

  • Header: detail of Cursive Display, 2013, Colour Polaroid, © William Wegman, courtesy museum & the artist.
  • The other images:
    Dog Walker, 1990, Colour Polaroid, © William Wegman; courtesy museum & the artist.
    Farm Boy, 1996, Colour Polaroid, © William Wegman; courtesy museum & the artist.
    Casual, 2002, Colour Polaroid. © William Wegman, courtesy museum & the artist.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s