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Dog owners who make coats from their pet’s fur: interview with photographer, Erwan Fichou

A few years ago, photographer Erwan Fichou set out across France, Switzerland, and Belgium, looking for owners with dog fur coats taken (not in the violent way you might imagine) from their own dogs.

He took their photographs and posted it for all the world to see, much to the delight of animal lovers everywhere. We caught up with him recently to ask some questions on what he’s been up to and how the dog fur coat series came about.

We’re curious: how did you find all of those dog owners wearing their dog’s coats. Did you just stumble upon a group of them or did you seek them out one by one?
I was wondering if it was possible to spin human hairs. I had no response, but I found out a woman who used to spin yard from dog hair! And it was definitely more interesting for me. So she helped me find some people in France and I also travelled to Belgium and Switzerland.

But you can mostly find people everywhere in western countries. If you want a nice outfit for the winter (dog wool is very hot), be aware you will need to collect enough hair from your dog for at least 6 years.

Can you talk about the series you shot in Mexico City, called Miradors? What’s your inspiration for this?
The first image of the Miradors series is a kind of a vision, a mental image. I was walking in Mexico D.F. streets and I saw a man standing out from the crown of a tree. It was not just any kind of tree, but a (topiary) box tree looking like an ovni. And that man just standing up there was kind of a pilot. It lasted two seconds and he went down. The image just disappeared from the street, but it lasted as a ghost in my mind. Two years later, I got a grant for a residency in Mexico and I decided that image will be the starting point of a new work.

I am mostly concerned about the confrontation between man and nature, or the idea that man has about nature, and the way this relationship has lead him to interpret and classify. This relation is a strong component of art, and not only from the sixteenth century and the invention of landscape. The topiary (ars topiaria) literally means Art of Landscape, and this art of cutting and giving forms to the trees appeared in ancient Rome and survived through centuries. It became the first component of French aristocratic gardens in the seventeenth century, before becoming very popular again in the last 70 years.

I don’t know how it ended up in Mexico D.F, but it was a perfect artistic material for me – shapes ready to use! I started to make a huge tree casting in Mexico in order to find right places before I invited people to climb into those trees.

You’ve shot a wide variety of subjects for your different series’. Which one is your favourite to shoot and why?
Next one will be my favourite one, simply because I really enjoy the photographic moment. When it’s done, I usually leave the work alone for a while. There are a few ones I shot years ago and have still not found the proper way to show it.