This is Lola. If you saw her on the street -- sans flower crown -- you might wrongfully keep your distance, speed up or avoid eye contact. And yet here, when crowned with a whimsical coronet of candy-colored spring flowers, you probably feel your insides bubbling over with adoration, coupled with the intense desire to grab Lola by her wet, red nose and give her a kiss.
Photographer Sophie Gamand, the artist behind "Flower Power," was not originally a fan of pit bulls. However, as a volunteer with animal shelters and rescue groups that frequently encounter the breed (or amalgamation of breeds), she felt the need to dig deeper to discover the roots of her aversion to pit bulls. "I wanted to understand for myself what the [larger] debate was all about," the artist explained to The Huffington Post. "Were they bloodthirsty monsters? Or just dogs with a bad reputation?"
Through photography, Gamand not only hoped to explore her bias but eventually to unhinge pit bulls from their stereotypically aggressive associations. "I decided to photograph them in a totally unexpected way, to see if new imagery could challenge the way we perceive them, and ultimately the way we treat them."
Thus -- the flower crowns.
Gamand recruited her photographic subjects from various shelters, showcasing dogs too often abused and neglected in their previous lives. "I am interested in photographing these contemporary 'monsters' of our society, the rejects, the disposable lives they have become, similarly to [Bartolomé Esteban] Murillo or Egon Schiele," she added.
Styling her images according to the conventions of traditional baroque portraiture, Gamand captures her subjects facing the camera head on against an ambiguous, sparkly backdrop, positioning them as queen royalty in some alternate dog-driven universe. Additionally, Gamand makes each of the featured flower crowns herself, the ephemeral blossoms symbolizing the fragility of pitbulls' lives.
"In the U.S. alone, between 800,000 and one million pit bulls are euthanized every year," Gamand explained. "I am moved by their fate. I believe that, because we created dogs (through artificial selection) and made them what we wanted them to be, it should give us tremendous responsability towards them. Pit bulls are being quietly massacred."
Despite her initial hostility toward the pit bull, Gamand is determined to overcome her prejudice and shift the common conceptions of the glorious beasts. "With this series, I hope to break a cycle by reminding us that pit bulls are precious, fragile, moving creatures. And like any dog, they are what we make of them," she concluded.
"The way we treat pit bulls should remind us of our own shortcomings. They hold a mirror up for our humanity. What are they reflecting back at us?"
"Flower Power" is on view at Adrien/Kavachnina Contemporary until Oct. 12, 2015. See the Huffington Post's Arin Greenwood's coverage of the series here.
Also on HuffPost: