Back in 2007, for no apparent reason, VICE Italy’s Head of Content Lorenzo Mapelli started collecting vintage school and studio portraits. You know, the ones that bear witness to such cringeworthy cosmetic and sartorial decisions as soul patches and paisley boleros. “At one point, I realized I had a lot of them, so I started Sexy People as a shy attempt at an archive and as a way to start a discussion about aesthetics,” says Mapelli, whose blog indexes the abashed by decade (read: ’60s ’staches), lifestyle (jocks, geeks, et al) and even pets (who uncannily resemble their owners).
But when combing through faded snapshots at Porta Portese, Rome’s oldest flea market, Mapelli came across a collection of Polaroids of 50 different dogs standing before the same rusty picket fence, taken in the early ’90s. “Whoever took these pictures must have run a pet shop, but I still don’t know for sure where they come from,” he says. “The amazing thing about this find was not only the pictures themselves—which I found incredibly beautiful—but also the fact that each one was stapled to a paper file cataloguing the basic info of the dog: name, sex, breed, owner…”
Knowing he had stumbled upon something special, Mapelli published the Polaroids in a zine, Pet Shots. “We decided to focus in on the dogs with some weird results…weird but good,” he says. “What I find fascinating about dogs is how they’re so close, and at the same time, so distant from us. It’s a very weird presence if you think about it, but also the most normal thing ever. I think this ambivalence is what makes dogs so interesting on a cultural level.”
Pet Shots is published by Rawraw Edizioni
All images courtesy of Rawraw Edizioni and VICE Italy
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