• March 2, 2016

Using the Magic of ‘Flower Power’ to Soften the Pit Bull’s Image

Flower crowns and pastel colors aren’t likely the first things that come to mind when you think about pit bulls.

Picture of a pit bull dog in flowers
Asia, available for adoption, Lost Paws, Phoenix, Arizona

This is what French photographer Sophie Gamand is counting on. Coming from a country where pit bulls are banned, Gamand wasn’t deterred from opening her mind (and heart) to these dogs at the center of highly contentious debate. She wanted to work on a series of pit bull portraits that would challenge her own preconceived notions. But to do so, she had to get past her own fears.

Picture of a pit bull dog in flowers
Kaylee, adopted, Almost Home Animal Shelter, Pennsauken, New Jersey

“I was apprehensive when I tied the first flower crown on a dog’s head,” she says. “The first time I did it, I thought, ‘I’m going to lose my face!’ The dog just sat there and looked at me; she was so peaceful, she didn’t even shake her head. She just sat there and looked at me with deep, soulful eyes. After that, the shoot was easy.”

Picture of a pit bull dog in flowers
Ivy, available for adoption, Redemption Rescues, Inc., New York

Gamand knows that pit bulls are controversial in the U.S. “I’m more of a ‘gray area’ kind of person,” she says. “I don’t believe everything is black or white. With pit bulls there are very strong advocates … but also a lot of hate towards those dogs. I thought that the truth must be somewhere in the middle, so I wanted to find that truth for myself. The best way I knew how was to do a photo series.”

Picture of a pit bull dog in flowers
Lizzy, adopted, Almost Home Animal Shelter, Pennsauken, New Jersey

Though she’s not what she calls a “girly girl,” Gamand came up with the idea of putting flower crowns on the dog’s heads and washing them in warm tones.

“I wanted something that was going to be very soft and feminine,” she says. “I wanted them to look faded, like old vintage art. I wanted to give a sense of nostalgia and all that is lost.”

Picture of a pit bull dog with flowers
Marina, available for adoption, Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter, Long Island, New York

Her first thought? “Wow, these are so cheesy—they look like grandmothers in flower hats.”

Gamand believes that art works best when it highlights contradictions. “To take a ‘scary’ dog and then put flowers on their head and give them the granny look—it’s such a strong opposition,” she says.

Picture of a pit bull dog in flowers
Destiny, available for adoption, Almost Home Animal Shelter, Pennsauken, New Jersey

She admits that although she wanted to explore the situation for herself, she still had reservations about pit bulls. But what she discovered wasn’t as extreme as she expected. “Some pit bulls are problematic because of how they [were] raised,” she says. “But all the dogs I’ve photographed are great dogs. I’ve put flower crowns on 250 pit bulls, so I have very wide access to a lot of different dogs.”

Picture of a pit bull with flowers
Prada, adopted, Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter, Long Island, New York

Gamand says she hopes that the effervescent nature of the pictures will help people to connect to the plight of pit bulls, which she says are euthanized by the hundreds of thousands every year. “I’m basically using art to force people to linger longer on these pictures, which creates an emotional response and connection to the dogs—it allows for the debate to be a little more interesting,” she says.

“It’s like art with a mission, which is kind of the best art there is.”

Sophie Gamand’s Flower Power project helps pit bulls get adopted all over the United States. Find out how to support her mission by visiting her Instagram page.

There are 48 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Jane
    March 26, 2016

    It’s a shame the breed gets such a bad rap, when it’s the owner/trainer of a problem dog, (whatever the breed), that should suffer. My own experience has shown pits to be one of the most people friendly dogs I’ve ever encountered, and would love to see the misconceptions vanish.

  2. Melody
    March 20, 2016

    Hi I am melody and I am 10 years old I’ve been wanting a pit bull but my mom says that pit bulls don’t really like kids 🙁 but I hope when I get older I will be able to get a pit bull and that will be the luv of my life :)):):)

  3. Rita
    March 19, 2016

    I have had my pit for 6 years now and would like to say that I have never had a more loyal, loving, intelligent and snuggly dog than him. Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos and hopefully people will understand what a magnificent breed this is.

    • Jacqui
      March 19, 2016

      Thank you for yet another loving comment about these wonderful dogs.
      More people must comment, tell of your loving, loyal and snuggly dogs.
      Let more people know that it’s not the dog, it’s the terrible people who get their hands on these poor dog and turn them into fear biters, mean, neurotic and yes, dangerous animals.
      But as I’ve said before, I was bitten as a child by a Cocker Spaniel and a big Collie. Both dogs could have done much more damage if they had not been called back and restrained by their owners.
      Any dog can bite, many will, but not because they were born mean and aggressive. It’s always the fault of an ignorant and irresponsible owner.

  4. Tina
    March 14, 2016

    Beautiful photos of beautiful animals. Look at those eyes. So sweet.

  5. Summer
    March 14, 2016

    Just love the pictures! They really soften the illusion people have that all pitties are bad. Sophie, this was a “masterful” idea in helping to get these dogs adopted. I’d love to see what you could do with other animals.

  6. Kubajean
    March 14, 2016

    To Pegi and others. …many dog breeds have been in/out of fashion as the ‘dangerous breed’ …it is a thing we do. There really isn’t a pitbull breed but the physique of Staffordshire terriers etc is now demonized. Many such dogs are trained to kill/attack each other. It is the owner/trainer at fault. Our rescue pitbull mix ‘wrestles’ with our cat and does like to tussle with other dogs but does not randomly attack. It is a tragedy when children have been hurt but personally I would never let a 3 year old run around any big dog, just because they can be knocked over. I work in a library and see parents let their kids do stupid and dangerous stuff every day (really, your kid can really climb those shelves). It isn’t the dog. The flowers are beautiful but I think my dog would eat them…

  7. Susan Grant
    March 14, 2016

    I used to be nervous around pit bulls. However after volunteering in a shelter in California and meeting quite a few abandon and stay pit bulls I quickly changed my mind. They were all sweet and only want attention and love.
    It is very much the human influence on the dog that makes it be a happy well balanced dog or a mean violent dog. Some dogs will not be violent even if trained that way and are killed because they are to nice.
    This negative view is all because of the dog fighting rings that re-emerged in the ’80’s. The violent people started breeding and training the dogs to fight.
    People brought up by violent parents are also prone to violence. We are more closely relate than one might think.

    We need to re-evaluate our relationship with animals and take a more compassionate view.
    Prosecute the breeders and trainers, rehabilitate the dogs.

  8. Roger Dunstan
    March 14, 2016

    Calling a pit bull bad because it killed a cat is just inacvurate. A lot of terriers have a strong prey drive and if not properly trained can kill small animals. For that matter many breeds will attack or kill a cat. I have known of labs that will do just that. Do not misunderstand, I love cats but also am cognizant of the prey drive in many dogs.

    • Isaac
      March 14, 2016

      I made an objective comment about this “story” and the editors opted not to post it. Possibly because I stated an opinion about Nat Geo and pit bulls or I might have cursed. Either way, it looks like Nat Geo is censoring this comment board or whatever it is. I did put my site up because i had a relevant pic. What gives Nat Geo? My input contained a solution, which NO ONE is talking about now. Individual assessment. And why does your spell check spell pit bull pitfall?! I can’t believe you pulled my comment. i used to worship you. Now you wasted a good hour. I looked for two more for the relavent shot too.

  9. John Stewart
    March 13, 2016

    My family had 2 bull terriers and they were nice enough dogs. But these photos in which the dogs are given “floral caps” are, frankly, ridiculous.

  10. Suzanne
    March 13, 2016

    Nothing shouts “Spring!” like bouquets on bowsers.
    Lovely work!

  11. M-Andree P.Baril
    March 13, 2016

    WOW! I love dogs, flowers and specialy Sophie Gamand, Merci!

  12. Pegi
    March 13, 2016

    Lovely dogs yes. But I disagree with the comment on the owners being the cause of vicious dogs. Some dogs like people have poor characters and are mean by nature. Some are predatory, some are sneaky, some do bad things by mistake and lapse in judgement. It is not that the breed is bad at all. It is the fact that once you are in their grip the damage is immense. I had friends were so sweet to their dog yet the dog snapped the back and killed a cat. Another bit the ear of a child almost off. What is the choice but to have rules around them?

    • Jacqui
      March 13, 2016

      Pegi: Sorry, but people ARE the cause of a dog going bad. Many times it’s outright neglect and abuse, believe me, I’ve seen my share. Other times, it’s plain ignorance. Some people are not aware of “how” to take care of a dog properly, how to teach the dog what they expect of him or her and many do not realize that a dog is not a toy, a piece of furniture, an object that has no feelings and should be ignored or staked out in the yard.
      Dogs are loving, loyal, intelligent creatures and want to be with their people.
      They “need” to be watched, supervised, properly cared for.
      A dog that kills a cat isn’t necessarily a bad dog. It’s a dog that doesn’t like cats, period.
      One of my dogs, a Standard Poodle gets annoyed with one of my cats occasionally, and only occasionally. But one day she and the cat gave each other dirty looks and the dog chased the cat through the house and would have taken a bite out of her if I hadn’t interceded.
      Fortunately, my dog doesn’t have the weight or the large jaws that a PB does, and the cat lived to irritate her another day.
      When I was 3 yrs. old, I was bitten badly by a ….Cocker Spaniel !!
      A beautiful, sweet looking golden colored Cocker Spaniel…that the owners said after…”our dog doesn’t like children.” That’s okay…that’s the dog’s choice in my mind…but the owners were negligent in allowing the dog to run loose off of their property.
      At the age of 9, I was again bitten by a dog…this time…a beautiful Collie that lived down the road. That dog also, was not fenced in, kept on it’s own property.
      All dogs can bite, many will, depending on the circumstances. It’s up to dog owners to be Intelligent and Responsible for their pets.

  13. Craig
    March 13, 2016

    These pictures broke my heart. By focusing attention on the eyes, instead of the massive and powerful head, you can instantly see how sweet the dogs are. Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel ambivalent towards this breed. Everyone I’ve ever talked to who owned/owns one, and has also owned other breeds, said that pit bulls were the sweetest most loving dogs they ever had. The pit bulls I’ve met personally were indeed sweet and happy dogs – as much so as any lab. I believe what’s been said that “bad” dogs are simply a result of being trained by “bad” owners, and that is where the fault lies. That said, I don’t know what to think about the idea that this breed has an unstable temperament, or that their predator instinct is triggered too easily even when they are truly sweet at heart. Is it possible the breed is more susceptible than others to the horrid attitudes and behavior of mean owners?

    My brother has owned (and deeply loved) two pit bulls, and both dogs have been as sweet and fun-loving as can be. Even after interacting directly with his dogs multiple times, and having them be totally sweet and in no way threatening, I still find myself nervous when my face is close to theirs. It seems that I have been imprinted by the tragic cases where pit bulls have suddenly and unpredictably mauled or killed people, and I just find it impossible to completely trust them. I don’t know what the solution is for this problem, either for myself or anyone else in the same position. All I can do is consciously try to keep their sweet side in mind, and give each dog the benefit of the doubt.

  14. Jayne Blasser
    March 13, 2016

    Most injuries and deaths are NOT from pitts, but from any large dog the police or news are too lazy to verify the identity of. There are 20 large breed dogs and when tested over 80% get at least 7 wrong. It’s easy to scream pitt, adding to the hate. As mentioned above there has been a ‘bad’ breed every decade. Even the German Shepherd, a favorite worldwide for centuries, has been on the list.

  15. M
    March 13, 2016

    It’s interesting how people are saying this breed is evil. Look at humans, the death and destruction we’ve caused, that we support daily through our tax dollars and laws, and we have no problem picking off other species.

    This is a beautiful series. Thank you for sharing these.

  16. Angie Premate
    March 13, 2016

    I love these pictures. It’s as though you can see inside there souls. These dogs are only as bad as the people that raise them.

  17. Regina
    March 13, 2016

    My parents had a rescue pit bull. She was gentle, loyal & sweet. Her beginning was an abusive one, she was rescued & given to my parents. In the 15 years she was w/them, there were never any incidents of violence of any degree or kind (she didn’t like the vet, but I don’t think that is only a pit bull trait, she never bit him). My Dad was blind & deaf she was a great comfort to him. He always would reach down, pet her & be comforted by her presence. My parents died 3 years ago & we just had to put her down, all of us came home to be with her. She was a gentle, calming, loved part of out family.

    • Jacqui
      March 13, 2016

      Regina: A lovely story about your dad and mom and their rescue Pit Bull.
      It seems she was a great dog and brought your Dad comfort and happiness.
      How very sad that people hate this breed so much and then…there’s a story like yours…the complete opposite of what too many people think PB’s are like.
      Dogs are not born mean, it takes a mean, abusive, ignorant person to make them like that.
      Having rescued more than 200 dogs and lived with so many breeds of dogs, I cannot ever say enough about these creatures that I love, I adore, I respect. They are highly intelligent, loyal, protective, compassionate and will lay down their lives for us if need be, as I would for them.

  18. John
    March 13, 2016

    My 3 year old nephew was killed by a “Pittie”.
    In a fenced yard he ran past the bitch.
    She gave chase and knocked him down.
    She grabbed his head and shook him to death.
    Very efficient.
    He was buried, she was put down, Mother went to prison. All very efficient.
    There were no flowery crowns.

  19. Roger Mirka
    March 13, 2016

    I do not agree with trying to soften the look of pit bulls. I do agree with one comment that the people that train them to be killers, whether purposely or thru cruelty, are often to blame. But 60% of all fatal mauling are pit bulls. And there have been many, many incidents of pit bulls turning on their owners, mauling and killing adult and children who thought they had a loving pet.

    • Jacqui
      March 13, 2016

      Apparently “reply” doesn’t work when attempting to reply to a specific post.
      How does one reply to a specific person’s post??

  20. Kay
    March 13, 2016

    I had a rescue Pit mix, unfortunately for only 6mns. Unbeknownst to me he had tick fever when I got him and had had it so long untreated it got into his bone marrow. He was 5 years old and looked healthy and fit The vet and I had not seen a reason to do the blood test that would have discovered it. He was the most lovable, intelligent dog I could have asked for. Even friends who were afraid of all dogs loved him. I had reservations about getting a Pit bull or even a mix but now could not recommend them enough. When Ranger’s loss is no longer so painful I will get another and hope that it will be 1/2 the dog Ranger.was

  21. Jacqui
    March 13, 2016

    Beautiful dogs.
    What a terrible shame it is that a dog is hated for it’s breed. Terrible people are to blame for abuse and neglect and turning many of these great dogs into fear-biting, aggressive, menacing animals.
    As a lifelong dog owner and dog lover, I’ve rescued many, many dogs from the streets and highways where I live. Some were mean looking because they were filthy, starving, scared out of their wits, but once taken in, cleaned up, fed properly, given proper medical care, each dog became a loving, loyal member of my family.
    Hating a dog because of it’s breed, is like hating a person because of the color of their skin and/or their nationality, I see no difference.

  22. Sarah
    March 13, 2016

    Beautiful pictures! Beautiful dogs!

  23. Herb Edmunds
    March 13, 2016

    I agree with Susan Hayek-Kent
    March 8, 2016 the owners who create aggressive dogs should be euthanized, not the dogs. You can train a dog but you can’t train the owner. Those type of owners are sick individuals who should not be part of society.

  24. iglooo101
    March 10, 2016

    They look really cute dogs and yes flowers have worked.
    Was told by a dog groomer that the Pitbulls are good but some people ,that are very bad,and they teach their Pitbulls to act bad.
    Lots of accidents have happened in the province of Ontario, Canada and now I think Pitbulls are banned.
    Information on The Dog Owners’ Liability Act and Public Safety Related to Dogs Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005
    Here is a “Breed-specific legislation” page on Wikipedia

  25. Giulietta Cano
    March 8, 2016

    I have considerable experience with pitties. In every case of which I am aware it is the human owner who is to blame. Pitties are loving, kind snuggling creatures. Shame on the human who bully the bully breeds.

  26. MB
    March 8, 2016

    Before spouting off facts from ONE website, read and learn a little bit more about these dogs. This is an amazing breed that had been referred to as the “nanny” dog for its reputation of being so good with children. Unfortunately because they have a high tolerance for pain, they have since become used for fighting. It is one hundred percent how the dog is raised. I have been bitten by several different breeds of “good” dogs, my pit bull has never ever even nipped at me or my two small children.
    This artwork is beautiful, very moving. My hope is that like the artist, it will cause people that have opinions and prejudices against this breed to reconsider. They truly are an amazing breed! Give pits a chance!

    • Susan Hayek-Kent
      March 8, 2016

      I have to agree with those who feel this is NOT AN EVIL BREED. they are loyal and will do what their owners want. I have seen rescue pitties who where tortured and hurt and still wouldn’t become mean.
      the owners who create aggressive dogs should be euthanized, not the dogs. the dogs are salvageable, the humans are not. please don’t condemn entire breeds because of what their owners do.
      I remember when I was young it was GSD’s who were feared, and then dobermans. and then rotties. now it’s pitties.
      what a shame that the blame isn’t put where it belongs….on inhumane and irresponsible owners.

  27. UseYourBrain
    March 7, 2016

    “Pit Bull” is not a breed. Look it up. It’s a combination of breeds that make up this term. If you were to DNA test these dogs, most would be your run of the mill mutts who had the misfortune of “looking like a pit bull” due to stocky bodies and big heads.

    Treat them right and they will be lovely. Don’t blame the dogs.

    P.S. your statistics are bull shit because the collection methods are inaccurate and the breed naming is done by laypeople without training.

  28. sara grahamslaw
    March 7, 2016

    so very beautiful. Their sad eyes seem to reflect the bad publicity they get. It’s nurture not nature with these beautiful creatures. Gorgeous xxx

  29. Marty Bishop
    March 6, 2016

    True love and warmth. I love Pits and always have. They are wonderful pets. These photos are absolutely beautiful

  30. Lorelord
    March 5, 2016

    I don’t think it is a good idea to sensationalize these dangerous dogs. over 60% of all dog bite fatalities are from this breed. 5 people already have been killed in 2016 by the family pitpull that was “just a baby and loved to lick your face”…

    face the facts and look at these babies, children that have been mauled to death by this evil breed already this year.


  31. Jennifer Ray
    March 4, 2016

    I have two Pit Bulls. These pics are the best!!!!!

  32. Dot
    March 3, 2016

    Sophie Gamand was so generous to photograph our dogs at the Town of Hempstead Shelter (New York). Her photos have made potential adopters linger longer on the beautiful faces of our pitties.

  33. Sabrina
    March 3, 2016

    Thank you for this. It absolutely made my morning and I shall share it with the world. Flower power. But also, their eyes. So vulnerable and innocent and kind. <3

  34. Silas S
    March 3, 2016

    Jana, this photographer through photography makes a statement that pit bulls are vulnerable. One could see that their ears are kept occluded by an assortment of flowers.

  35. Vaida
    March 3, 2016

    I find pit bulls adorable as they are. These pictures just show how more adorable and cute they can be. There is no dog which looks bad or something else in a bad way, it is just how people wants to see them. They are animals, they are a part of all ours world

  36. Deanie Bisgop
    March 2, 2016

    This made me laugh and cry! How wonderful! Thank you so much! Thank you for your willingness to learn about the breed and break down the barrier! These dogs are so misunderstood! The are smooshie and kissable!. My girl says so!

  37. Robert Perez
    March 2, 2016

    “Fine Eye For Art Sophie”
    “Thx for having a different view on are Pittie Breed”

  38. Susan Hayek-Kent
    March 2, 2016

    I love these.
    flowers on sweet, loyal, often mis-treated pitties.
    humans are the bad part of these animals, not the animals themselves.
    thank you.

  39. Shelley Johnson
    March 2, 2016

    ictures and purpose!

  40. tanya
    March 2, 2016

    Such amazing photos, and for such a great & caring cause ♡

  41. Joan Churton
    March 2, 2016

    These pictures are absolutely beautiful. Thank you for making my day!!

    March 2, 2016

    It was such an innovative idea! I’m amazed by the serenity and beauty of the photos. Look at those soulful eyes… The subjects may as well be asking: It’s a democratic world, so why indulge in racism? Nice!

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