Sit. Stay. Pose. Animals have served as photographers' muses long before we had videos of grumpy cats and bestselling books of underwater dogs — that much is evident in the J. Paul Getty Museum's new exhibition, "In Focus: Animalia."
Works from Alfred Stieglitz, William Eggleston, Taryn Simon, Sandy Skoglund and others provide varied interpretations of canine, feline, equine and avian history, including the early days of daguerreotype and stereoscopic prints, 19th century wild-game photos and William Wegman's happy-to-abide Weimaraners.
Thirty-five images drawn from the Getty's collection illustrate the evolution of photography, beginning with Eadweard J. Muybridge's experimental motion study of a galloping horse. Antique tintypes replicate painted portraiture with beloved pets as props. American artist Hiro's elegant Harper's Bazaar image of a small owl clutching a jeweled toad elevated creatures big and small to fashion-model status.
Whether animals are domesticated, wild, taxidermied or replicated in plastic, photographers require patience and creativity in capturing the moment. South African photographer Daniel Naudé spent hours developing a bond with a pack of feral dogs traveling through the plains of the Karoo region in 2008. The result is an intimate, regal portrait reminiscent of traditional 17th century fox hunting paintings.
An accompanying book by curator Arpad Kovacs includes additional photos by Man Ray, Robert Mapplethorpe and Bruce Davidson. "In Focus: Animalia" runs through Oct. 18.