In her new book Dog People, Sandra Müller asks the question, “What kind of person would my dog be?” Published this month by teNeues, the book presents portraits of 83 dogs, dressed to embody the personas their owners imagine for them. Writes Müller in the book’s introduction, “Let’s be honest; every dog lover has anthropomorphized his dog at some point.” Her project renders those thoughts visible. Akhiro, thoughtful in half-rim glasses and a vest, “would be a sweet, reserved gentleman,” she writes, a personality that reflects his difficult upbringing. Bella the Border Collie mix puppy wears a jaunty yellow jacket and would be “just a little kid.” Nino the Standard Poodle, dressed in a green silk cravat, “has a pretty high opinion of himself,” and would be a medical school professor. Mira, a Golden Retriever in a pink knit sweater, would be a grandma who loves to cook, a reflection of her real-life devotion to eating everything. The dogs’ personalities range from haughty and vain to meek and cuddly, but all share a sharp sense of style.
Rather than using Photoshop, Müller worked in the studio, recruiting friends and their dogs and then using Facebook to find subjects. Maja, Müller’s own Bernese Mountain Dog mix, was her first subject, and she experimented with her to find the best approach to working with her models. In the system she developed, she prefocused and pre-lit each shot, and once her subject was seated, slipped on a shirt or jacket or scarf and, if “the dog didn’t mind, I might add a hat or a necklace before pressing the shutter button,” a process that took two or three minutes. Most of the dogs were “very chill,” she reports. Rather than being a fashion show or a Halloween parade, Müller hopes the images function as real portraits, and that each one “honestly captures a type of person, a human being you could actually meet.”
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