What is it like, collaborating with this type of dog in particular?
‘Weimaraners are pointer retrievers, so they have this stillness in the field. When they see a bird they don’t run after it, they just point to where it is, the opposite to a herding dog which tries to get you into a position. There are lots of little tricks I have learned to get them to perform in certain ways. The current dogs I have like looking at me. If I want them to look evil, for instance, I walk far away and they will squint – it looks sinister! If I walk up closer they get soft and beamy.’
So many of your photographs were taken with a large format 20×24 Polaroid camera. How did that contribute to the evolution of your work?
‘I was invited to use it in 1978 in the Polaroid studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The camera had just been invented. I was transfixed. You could see the results instantly, or in 70 seconds, at least. You could pin the image up on the wall, see what you felt, then try something else. You can really develop a work that way. It’s why I ended up in many different areas I think.’
There’s an enormous variety of photographs including elaborate compositional pieces with several dogs. It’s clearly not all been about set-piece portraits?
‘Sometimes I would get annoyed with dressed up dogs. I used to think, “I’m going to clean up my act and get minimal.” The dogs are allowed on my furniture, of course – they’re allowed everywhere. I remember once thinking they looked like boulders, all grouped together. If you look at them on a certain level and ignore the heads they’re sort of landscapey. Against different paper backgrounds they can look like water, or desert, or mountains.’