Aspen loves its dogs, of course. The ski town‘s avalanche dogs are local celebrities. It loves its sled dogs and purse dogs, welcomes four-legged friends into most any public space. For many years, Aspen even had a mail-carrying golden retriever that accompanied Terry the downtown mailman on his route.
So it’s unsurprising that Los Angeles-based fine art photographer Gray Malin has turned his flattering lens on the phenomenon in his new series “Dogs of Aspen,” following up his 2019 “Gray Malin in Aspen Series” celebrating local ski culture in retro chic and throwback alpine elegance.
He recently released his 25-photo “Dogs of Aspen” series was shot on Aspen Mountain and at the Little Nell this winter, starring a cast of charismatic dogs. The images find them riding the Gentlemen’s Ridge chairlift and taking in the view from the top and seated – not unlike the famous painting of poker-playing puppies – seated for après snack and drinks in the snow at Ajax Tavern. They wear vintage hats and goggles, earmuffs, sunglasses and scarfs. (None are photographed skiing, but posed with skis, yes.)
“I wanted this series to be an expansion of my love letter to Aspen that brings joy and a snowy escape to all,” Malin said.
The series hasn’t yet gotten a proper exhibition in Aspen, though the Aspen Skiing Co. is expected to have some of the new “Dogs of Aspen” photos mixed in with the framed prints of “Gray Malin in Aspen” series at the Sundeck by Presidents’ Day.
During an Aspen visit in September with his family, Malin got in the habit of bringing his kids to play in Wagner Park. Witnessing Aspen’s central park in all its dog-shenanigan glory proved inspiring.
“Day after day I would marvel at the amount of gorgeous dogs playing in the field next door and it really kicked my imagination into high gear,” Malin said. “When you think of Aspen and dogs, your mind immediately goes to dog breeds that were built for the snow – so it was fun to include unexpected breeds in the shoot to add some humor and an element of surprise to the series.”
Yes, Malin has a family dog back in California, Stella, a rescue that is a “lab mix.” But, no, she isn’t in the Aspen photos. (“She is getting up there in age,” Malin said, “but I love to spend time with her and play fetch when she’s up for it.”)
The project continues Malin’s long-running series of shooting dogs in prominent destinations dressed in vintage props, with his canine subjects posed like tourists.
Before the Aspen project, Malin did dog series at the Beverly Hills Hotel and a “Dogs of New York City” series.
It echoes the vintage vibe of his previous Aspen project and returned Malin to many of the same locales on the mountain and the hotel. Working with en experienced dog trainer, Malin cast his canine subjects and helps him bond with and position them – everything in the series is real, no camera effects or PhotoShopping tricks.
Not unlike his shoots with humans here, at each location Malin would set a vintage scene and costume his dog models in gear and apparel, then shoot them un-posed.
“It has been fun and creatively challenging to reimagine some of my favorite moments from my previous shoots at these famous destinations with dogs instead of people as the subjects,” Malin said.
Returning for a second Aspen-focused series, Malin – who also conceived the upcoming ASPENX “snow beach” experience on Ajax – tapped into the community of friends and fixers he met on his first project.
“When you need a vintage car or a last minute Boston Terrier, it’s really nice to know that you can turn to friends in the community for help and feel warmly welcomed,” he said.
Malin first made a name for himself more than decade ago with his dreamy aerial shots of beaches, taken from door-less helicopters, and his playful portraits of llamas and other animals clothed in balloons that made him Instagram famous.
He first shot aerials in Aspen between 2011 and 2015 as he expanded from his beachscapes to mountains.
His photos of vintage fantasy worlds, he explained after “Gray Malin in Aspen” was released in early 2020, were originally inspired by his grandparents’ travel photos, dating to the ‘50s and beyond era of casual glamour, dressing up on planes and fashion-over-function ski gear.
A doggy takeover of that world was a natural next step for Malin.
“I knew that this was going to be a hit series because of the subject matter, but I was really surprised with how well the locations worked with the dogs and how truly spectacular the final aesthetic of the series turned out in the end product,” Malin said. “The addition of the vintage hats, scarves, skis and other accessories paired with the dogs heightened the elements of style and whimsy within this body of work.”
By: Andrew Travers I The Aspen Times I February 3, 2022