Photographer Charlotte Dumas created a series of portraits of the remaining 9/11 search and rescue dogs, called Retrieved. The series was also turned into a book which is now on its second print run, and for which waiting lists exist, worldwide. The rest, as they say, is history. The media ran with the story and Charlotte was taken by surprise by the overwhelmingly positive media attention. Now Charlotte feels, it is time to pay it forward. On Thursday 9/29, the photographer will be hosting a silent auction of five of her favorite images from Retrieved, with all profits going to The First Responder Alliance (details here). She will also be signing a limited number of copies of the book.
Orange Alert sat down and spoke with Charlotte to talk about all the activity and attention following the series.
OA: On August 10, The New York Times published a selection of the portraits from Retrieved. Can you tell us about what that publication set in motion?
CD: After the dogs ran—no pun intended—in The New York Times Magazine, responses came from everywhere, right away. Both from dog owners and handlers, from people who had been involved with the rescue operations at 9/11, and mostly from other reporters and editors who also wanted to feature the portraits of these dogs. Subsequently the series appeared in dailies all over the world, such as The Sunday Times and The Daily Mail, La Repubblica, El Pais, Ta Nea, Greece, even The Herald Sun in Australia! At the same time TV newscasts focused their stories on the dogs that I had portrayed for this project. So it lead to several Radio and television interviews, like CNN, and an explosion of the subject in the blogosphere.
The overall response has been overwhelming and touching. And also stressful—but certainly inspiring. As a direct result of all the attention, my book Retrieved is already sold out. It’s on pre-order on Amazon and with bookstores worldwide; we’re on a second print run which will be ready by early October. People have signed up on waiting lists! It’s amazing and heartwarming that this subject of my portraits reaches such a wide audience, and apparently means so much to a lot of people.
You’ve been in touch with several of the dog handlers since the media started paying all this attention to ‘your’ dogs. What have their reactions been?
CD: All of the handlers have been very supportive of everything that has happened, and they did their fair share in opening up to the press. Sometimes they’ve had to deal with reporters who aren’t too bright, but no matter what, they very much appreciate the spotlight and the respect given to their veteran dogs, ten years after they worked the sites of 9/11.
Retrieved is a book now as well, and it is one of several beautiful books you have created with independent art publishers. Is this publication extra special to you because the subject is emotionally charged? Or do you feel that way about every series you create?
CD: I’d say it is definitely extra emotionally charged for me. Also because I had so much contact with the owners after the series was shot, because of that media attention. One of the handlers came to see Retrieved, the show at Julie Saul Gallery (runs through October 15, 2011) and that was a very moving moment. It’s a series that is embraced here in New York on a whole different level, for obvious reasons. It’s very close to home, there’s no emotional reserve from the audience.
Five of your prints will be sold at a silent auction at Clic on 9/29 benefit the First Responder Alliance. What made you decide to benefit the human first responders, rather than canine ones?
CD: My feeling is that the series and the book already pay such an obvious tribute to the dogs, that honoring search and rescue dogs with a benefit, is a bit of conceptual overkill. Besides I think it is incredibly important to take care of the men and women who were involved in the rescue operations. People who, now, for various reasons related to those weeks, need extra financial support in order to provide for basic healthcare or education. The aftershock of the September 11 attacks affects entire families, and will do so for generations to come. The First Responder Alliance helps these people with exactly that, and we also very grateful to By Nature Petfoods, who generously made all the printing and production possible for this benefit.