Today my friend Fiorella, protagonist of
my article GAY LOVE II with her partner Maddalena, brought their dog Frida for
a relationship self-portrait session. We wanted to explore the relationship
between man and dogs through the self-portrait, since she is working with Frida
to achieve “pet partnership” for pet therapy work. Frida is with
Fiorella since she was a puppy, another important factor in their strong
relationship. We are also proposing a workshop for people with dogs.

evening at dinner, I was fantasizing about getting a dog to take a
self-portrait, thinking how to place the cable release in an easy position for
a dog’s paw. Everybody laughed at me, saying that it didn’t make any sense,
that dogs would never assert themselves, they don’t have an ego, and so on. I
didn’t believe it, I think dogs and all animals can have a sense of self. 

dogs, it seems the sense of self is enhanced by the relationship with man. Here
is what happened in my studio today…

I asked Fiorella to concentrate on her
emotions, to try to express rage or despair, always listening to what she was
feeling and being aware of Frida’s behavior. And then to concentrate on their
relationship, staying open to Frida’s needs. In this first picture I see
Fiorella somehow dedicating this session to Frida, letting her be the
protagonist and being there for her. Fiorella agreed, although she didn’t even
think of that. I love how their hair connects, and how they are both listening
to one another.

Here Frida, inspired by Fiorella’s
introspective work and attention to emotions, seems to go deep inside herself.

I think she is not looking at anything, she is looking inside… They are both
so connected that Frida’s paw and Fiorella’s hand are similar, both suspended
as if stopping time to listen to essential truths. Fiorella then presses the
shutter for Frida. But Frida’s paw seems to be ready to press the shutter

seems to be so deep in touch with Frida’s inner self that she can educate her
to introspection and self-assertion. Again, Frida’s right paw is ready and her
look does not seem directed to anything in the room, but into herself.

And this is the last one, what a glorious
picture!!! It is not the dog who is taking the picture, it is Fiorella, but
believe me, she didn’t think it was going to look as if Frida took it, she
wasn’t even thinking about that. What’s wonderful is that Frida’s attitude is
incredibly determined, her look still goes inwards and her paw is absolutely
affirmative. It really looks to me like Frida’s self-portrait, assisted by
Fiorella. Probably some of you will think I’m completely mad, but to me it is
evident that this strong relationship has inspired the dog’s sense of self. As
in humans’ self-portraits, there is an evolution from the first to the last
picture: the process is also empowering for a dog, supported by the
relationship with her best friend. I am curious to see if Frida will one day
take a self-portrait on her own… We’ll certainly try!

 This Self-Portrait
Experience proves again that whenever we take a self-portrait concentrating on
our most profound emotions to help us travel deep inside ourselves, the
unconscious will speak, will say whatever needs to be said in that moment, and
it will surprise us with important statements we didn’t even think about. I
hadn’t told Fiorella about my dinner conversation and my wish to have a dog
take a self-portrait. Fiorella said that even if she had tried to fake it, she
would have never got this amazing result. 

It seems that dogs can’t see
images, or recognize themselves in an image. Today we haven’t tried to show
Frida these pictures, but Fiorella will try, maybe printing them. Anyhow, it is
true that a dog is not conscious of producing art or taking a photograph. I’d
love to ask William Wegman whether his dogs have ever seen themselves in a
picture. But I believe that the very act of pressing the shutter in front of
the camera, and the solemn atmosphere which Fiorella has created for Frida,
have inspired Frida’s sense of self and introspection. We don’t know what dogs
think and feel, but we know they have emotions. Probably these emotions plus
the memory of past emotions can create a sense of self, an identity. In dogs it
is probably dependent on the relationship with man, and in cats? or monkeys?