Over the past decade Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas has fashioned a promising art career around soulful, haunting portraits of wolves, Roman Army and NYPD horses, the stray dogs of Palermo and New York, and even a blind circus tiger in an attempt to show that “the state of mankind can be read and studied by the way we relate to animals.” She’s succeeded critically and commercially: Sofia Coppola and the late Alexander McQueen are among many luminaries who’ve collected her emotive work.
For her latest project, the 34-year-old artist tracked down the last remaining rescue dogs who worked during in the 9/11 recovery effort. “I started my career portraying police dogs in my studio,” Dumas says, noting she initially thought to shoot retired military canines. “When I focused on search dogs it got me curious about which ones would still be alive from 9/11. In my memory, it was the photographs of the dogs in the papers that stayed with me most.”
With the help of FEMA, Dumas tracked down 15 survivors — down from 90 who originally served the sites — in nine states, from Ojai, California to Ipswich, Massachusetts, where she shot her first portrait of the black Labrador retriever, Tara. “She’s the oldest in the series and passed away shortly after I shot her,” Dumas laments. “It was a tough shoot because she couldn’t really stand anymore and I wanted to portray her in a moment of awareness.”