IT WAS THE MOST MAGICAL MOMENT," recalls photographer William Wegman of the summer day in 1989 his beloved 4-year-old weimaraner Fay Ray gave birth to her first litter. Onto the porch of the Upstate New York weekend home that the Manhattan-based Wegman, 53, shares with his wife, Christine Burgin, 37, an art dealer, and their son Atlas, 3, came a damp, squeaking ball of fur the Wegmans would dub Chundo, soon followed by Battina (or Batty), Crooky, Glenn (named for pianist Glenn Gould) and five other pups. Wegman immediately began snapping pictures of Fay and her brood (sired by a German-born champion weimaraner), a labor of love and laughter that continued for the next year. The result—Wegman's recently published Puppies (Hyperion, $24.95)—marks a departure from the artist's previous collections, in which he would whimsically pose Fay and her predecessor Man Ray (who died in 1982) in dressing gowns, military regalia and other human guises. Fay's (mostly) unadorned progeny were harder to handle. "You put them one way, they will just crawl toward Mom," says Wegman. Fay died of leukemia in 1995, but Crooky and Batty have had litters of their own, and Batty's son Chip and his uncle Chundo are among Wegman's top dogs. The hardest part of photographing pups? "You can't keep your hands off them," sighs Wegman.

MICHAEL A. LIPTON
CYNTHIA WANG in New York City

  • Contributors:
  • Cynthia Wang.