Most dog owners will be familiar with the standard issue plastic ‘lampshade’ dogs leave the vet with. They’ll also be well acquainted with the woebegone expression that accompanies it. It’s precisely this image photographer Winnie Au is challenging with her Cone of Shame series, which she describes as “majestic, proud and beautiful”.
Au worked together with designer and stylist Marie-Yan Morvan to design the abstract collars, tailoring each cone to its individual doggie model. The pair had to be careful to keep each piece light, use quiet materials, and make sure it wasn’t made from anything toxic – in case of enthusiastic chewers.
“A lot of my inspiration for the project was to treat the dogs as a texture/colour to work with in the series, vs a straight up dog portrait,” she told CR. “In that sense the process was a lot like planning a fashion shoot. For the cones a lot of my inspiration came from nature or objects, which again is similar to what fashion designers do when planning a new collection.”
“I also think this vibe came from working with Marie-Yan Morvan, who had never worked with dogs before but has a background as a costume designer and stylist. We both strived to make sure the images stayed in a more abstract/conceptual world vs being too cute (which can be hard when you have really adorable dogs as subjects).”
As you’d expect, dogs aren’t always easy to work with. Au says she worked closely with animal handlers or owners, and used plenty of treats to bribe the dog to stay in one spot and look in the right direction.
The series is reminiscent of William Wegman’s portraits of dogs, and have more of a high fashion feel than straightforward pet photography.