There is no doubt that pit bulls have had their fair share of bad press. (No) thanks to a trail of myths following them around (read: not all pit bull owners belong to bike gangs or dog fight clubs), pit bulls are misunderstood dogs. Yet, for fans of the breed, pit bulls represent a whole lot more than sheer strength, servitude or aggression.
These notions fascinated Carlos Sanva, a Madrid-based photographer who set out to explore the way humans project themselves onto pit bulls, and what that means from a social point of view. After watching a video on YouTube, which features the (now famous) Perla pulling a car with her own teeth, Sanva contacted the pit bull’s proud owner in Argentina and flew over to photograph this incredibly strong creature. The series Supermen was born. “Supermen is a meditation on the will of human power based on direct experience working with American pit bull terriers in controlled environments,” Sanva explains. “Dogs are always subjected to human will that moulds each one’s character (through selection and training). Thereby, by observing their behavior, we can identify some of our own similarities in turn.” The title of the series was also informed by the “Superman Syndrome.” Sanva explains: “On a physical level, it is an anomaly in gender chromosomes, when a male receives an extra Y chromosome, producing the 47.XYY karyotype. Throughout history, some scientists have fervently defended the notion, without being able to offer concrete results, that certain violent characteristics are directly related to this genetic accident.”
The images are confronting, extremely physical, masculine. One can almost hear the panting, the struggle, the commands, and we are left pondering preconceived notions about pit bulls. That is, until Sanva reveals that Perla is in fact a spoiled girl— one who is allowed to sleep in bed with her owners and even got some fancy dentistry to correct her teeth. Like Supermen, most of the photographer’s works focus on social behaviour, and serve as metaphors for how we view the world. Says Sanva: “My independent projects affirm that the world is indeed a very strange place, and they are marked by a profound irony that calls into question specific social codes.”
All images courtesy of Carlos Salva
Article initially was published at the Four&Sons broadsheet
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