William Wegman is an American photographer, painter and filmmaker, best known for the photographs of his Weimaraners. Born in Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1943, Wegman grew up in the small, nearby town of Eastern Long Meadow. His father was a factory worker. He began drawing with crayons and then painting with watercolors at a very early age. When he was fifteen, he received a Polaroid camera for his birthday that sparked his interest in photography.
After graduating from high school, Wegman attended the Massachusetts College of Arts in Boston where he received his BFA in 1965. He went on to attend the University of Illinois and completed his M.F.A. in 1967.
Wegman taught at the University of Wisconsin at Wausau and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. His early works were conceptual oil and acrylic paintings, which were shown in galleries in the U.S. and Europe, including solo shows at the Sonnabend Gallery in Paris and New York.
In the late 1960s, Wegman moved to California, where he taught at the University of California at Long Beach. In 1970 he moved to Los Angeles with his first wife. She told him that she wanted to get a dog. They flipped a coin, and Wegman got to choose Man Ray, his first Weimaraner, named after the famous photographer.
Man Ray often insisted on standing in front of the camera while Wegman was working and Wegman began to include the dog in his photos. The first photos of Man Ray were spoofs on Minimalism. Man Ray’s dead pan expressions enhanced the surreal quality of the work.
Wegman struggled for a while in L.A. Friend and fellow artist, Ed Ruscha, bought 50 of his works for $50 each, which kept Wegman afloat for a while, but he decided to move to New York in 1973.
Wegman rented a small studio in New York and made short films of Man Ray learning to spell, count and interact with the artist.They garnered Wegman much attention and led to them being shown in galleries and even on Saturday Night Live.
In 1978, Polaroid invited Wegman to try their large format camera. The pictures he took of Man Ray with the camera garnered much attention and established Wegmans’s career.
Man Ray died in 1982. The Village Voice named him Man of the Year.
Wegman did not get another dog until 1986. He named her Fay Ray, and, like her predecessor, she became the famous subject of Wegman’s works. Fay had a litter of puppies in 1989 and Wegman continues to live and work with her descendants. He has had twenty Weimaraners in his lifetime, including Man Ray.
Fay Ray and her offspring appeared on Sesame Street, are the subject of Wegman’s numerous children’s and art books, Vogue magazine, in both the U.S. and France and on murals in the New York City Subway and on the Maine Turnpike.
He has had retrospectives at the a retrospective at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Norton Museum of Art, the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. and the Kunstmuseum in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Wegman divides his time between his Manhattan home studio and his home in Maine. He and his third wife, Christine Burgin, have two children.