Photographer fights pit bull prejudice with book of portraits

Brooklyn resident Sophie Gamand’s much-anticipated “Pit Bull Flower Power” book will be published on Oct. 27 to coincide with Adopt a Shelter Dog Month and Pit Bull Awareness Month in October.

Since the 1980s, pit bulls have been demonized by society and portrayed as hellhounds. They’ve become the most feared, hated and abused of all companion animals. Some cities and countries ban them, while the media persist in associating them with viciousness.

This unjust reputation has sealed the fate of millions of dogs who face prejudice around the world and languish in shelters where they are euthanized at a higher rate. In America alone, hundreds of thousands of pit bulls are euthanized every year.

For the past four years, Gamand has been photographing shelter pit bulls wearing flower crowns, helping hundreds of these dogs find homes while combating their unjust reputation. A social media phenomenon, with nearly 300,000 passionate followers and videos about her work gaining more than 50 million views worldwide, Gamand’s whimsical portraits have become iconic.

Nakita is one of the many pups featured in “Pit Bull Flower Power.” Photo by Sophie Gamand

The mass appeal of Gamand’s portraits supports the idea that within the extended animal community pit bulls are in fact beloved and very popular. In 2018, The Dodo, one of the leading social media platforms for animal lovers, created Pittie Nation, a Facebook page dedicated specifically to positive pit bull stories, which instantly garnered 2.8 million followers.

Using data collected from animal shelters and veterinarians, some sources estimate that about 20 percent of the total owned dog population in the U.S. are pit bull-type dogs (that’s about 18 million pit bulls), and they are the third most popular type adopted from shelters and the fifth most popular dog type registered by veterinarians. It seems the negative perception of pit bulls is

outdated and contradicts the reality for millions of dog owners and for the animal welfare community at large.

As well as helping hundreds of rescued pit bulls find homes, Gamand’s Pit Bull Flower Power project also effectively counters negative pit bull stereotypes that contribute to their plight worldwide.

Full of moving, honest and inspiring stories of individual dogs and their lives (and deaths), “Pit Bull Flower Power” presents a vivid and beautifully composed cross-section of Gamand’s extraordinary work. The book also serves as a testament to the caring people who work in animal, the passion and dedication of those who provide homes for these animals, and the dignity, forbearance and love demonstrated by these dogs, who remain at the mercy of humans.

The publication of the book will coincide with a “Pit Bull Flower Power” art exhibit by Gamand including her photographs, never-seen-before installations, and media at The Invisible Dog, 51 Bergen St. in Brooklyn from Oct. 18 through Oct. 21.

Gamand is an award-winning French photographer and animal advocate who travels around the U.S. photographing shelter dogs to bring awareness of their fate, and to help them get adopted. In addition to social media, her portraits have been exhibited and featured in print, online and on TV worldwide.

She is also the author of “Wet Dog,” and lives in Brooklyn with her husband Sten and their dog MacLovin.

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