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Of the approximate 3.9 million dogs that enter the shelter system, about 1.4 million, or one in three, make it out. The statistic for pit bulls is not as optimistic with some findings stating only 1 in 600 will be adopted, with the rest being euthanized.
An award-winning photographer has made it her mission to change these stats. Last year, French born Sophie Gamand began a project to change the perception of pit bulls, a breed that is often deemed dangerous, violent and aggressive. Calling it "Flower Power: Pit Bulls of the Revolution," New York City-based Gamand created the series to show pit bulls in a softer light - portraying them to look like "hippies, soft fairy-tale-inspired characters, feminine and dreamy." To achieve this, she places homemade floral crowns on shelter pit bulls and poses them against pastel backgrounds in hopes viewers see the breed's true beauty, not the negative stereotypes often associated with them.
To date Gamand has volunteered hundreds of hours to photograph approximately 120 pit bulls from New York City shelters including Sean Casey Animal Rescue, Second Chance Rescue, Animal Haven, Brookhaven Animal Shelter and Hempstead Town Animal Shelter.
Her passion project seems to be paying off. Approximately half the pit bulls have been adopted, a rate much higher than the above mentioned national average. She has also helped shine a light on the bigger problem of prejudice against pit bulls, as her series has made its way onto hundreds of online media publications, while also capturing the attention of big-name outlets including BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and Oprah Magazine.
"After the first images received such a positive reaction from people and went viral online, I realized I had developed a wonderful marketing tool for pit bulls and maybe this series could help make a difference," says Gamand.
She is now considering going beyond New York and traveling across the country to visit shelters and gather more stories.
And while the dogs play a major role in the series, Gamand also deserves credit for creating such beautiful images.
When Gamand recently visited the Hempstead Town shelter to photograph pit bulls, including a red one named Apple, we went behind the scenes to see how she works her magic.
It all begins with a suitcase.