From Pole Vaulters in Underwear to Newfoundlands

When it comes to a photographer being associated with one breed, William Wegmen typically stands out for his work with Weimaraners, but in “Gentle Giants: A Book of Newfoundlands, Bruce Weber pays tribute to his beloved Newf, “Rowdy,” to the breed itself, and to the people who love them.

Weber is better known for his fashion photography appearing in Vogue, GQ, Life, and Rolling Stone, and for his ad campaigns for Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie & Fitch, Revlon, and Versace, and others. His best known image may be the one he took of Brazilian-born Olympic pole vaulter, Tomás Valdemar Hintnaus, in a pair of “tidy whities” for Calvin Klein. Hintnaus, the first model in used in the underwear advertising campaign of designer Calvin Klein, not only resurrected interest in pole vaulting, but after seeing this billboard in Times Square in 1982, people didn’t look at “your dad’s white jockey shorts” the same way again.

Where were we……

Dogs, yes, that’s it, Newfoundlands.

Weber photographed these huge dogs over the course of two years and went into their homes and kennels in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, California, Connecticut, and New York. He snapped their images at the Colosseum, Villa Borghese gardens and the Piazza Navona fountain in Rome.

Blended among the photographs are interviews with the dogs’ owners, essays by the author, and texts by Eugene O’Neill, Carl Sandburg, Zane Grey, James Baldwin, C.Z. Guest, Will James, Joseph Conrad, Lord Byron and Patti Smith.

“Gentle Giants” was the companion volume to a fifteen minute short film produced in 1995, and a traveling exhibition of the same name. In both, Weber reflects on living on a farm with his first love, the gentle Newfoundland.

As of 2011, Weber’s own canine family included five treasured Golden Retrievers: “Dream” (whom he describes as being a little like a football quarterback), “Tao” (laid back and open just like his name), “Billie Holiday” (a sweetheart and former rescue dog), “River” (named after River Phoenix whom Weber once photographed), and “True” (the focus of Weber’s 2003 documentary, “A Letter to True”). 

And you wondered how we would work “pole vaulters,” “underwear” and Newfoundlands into one post…..

Image is the cover of Gentle Giants

2 thoughts on “From Pole Vaulters in Underwear to Newfoundlands”

  1. Marg Willmotts Topmast kennel in Saskatchewan features heavily in the book. John and Marg Willmott have some great stories around Bruce Weber’s visit to Topmast

    • We’re delighted to have your feedback, Brenda! By all accounts, this is a marvelous book.

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