Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in Cait Oppermann’s Project
On one of the most prestigious dog shows, thoroughbred four-legged participants turn into patient statues for two days. Cait Oppermann told Bird In Flight why she felt guilty when photographing the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Photographer. Studied at Pratt Institute. Lives and works in NYC. Works for The FADER, Bloomberg Businessweek, The New Yorker, Vice, and Wired.
In February of this year, I was asked by Instagram to shoot at the Westminster Dog Show, which was the job of a lifetime. I fulfilled what I needed to shoot for them specifically, then spent the rest of my time there photographing for myself. I’ve always been interested in the Dog Show because it’s such a strange occurrence. I love dogs, but I love them as pets, so the experience of seeing them in this context was interesting to me.
One thing I remember distinctly is noticing how the dogs were not dog-like at all. They didn’t fidget and they mostly sat completely still. Their eyes would follow my gaze as I would cross the room, rather than look from person to person as many dogs do. There was something almost eerie about it.
At first I was worried about whether or not it would be OK to use a flash when photographing the dogs, but as soon as I arrived, I was assured by owners and groomers alike that the dogs were completely accustomed to it. Being show dogs it is their job and camera flashes are part of that. That said, I did feel a little guilty knowing that they couldn’t speak for themselves as to whether or not it bothered them.
I think the attention and spotlight is something that is most definitely desired by owners and groomers. There is a showiness to many of them that they are dying for attention. You can see it in they way they dress and carry themselves.
Personally, I could never participate in a dog show myself because I personally feel that dogs are animals who want to be carefree and play and show affection whenever and however they like. I had a dog growing up and his personality showed in the way he acted spontaneously and got too excited to contain himself. That’s the beauty and sweetness of dogs! I make a point of not judging anyone who I photograph and I am not in a position to condemn anyone who is not causing an animal physical harm.