My mother was killed in a Dixie Highway car accident in Miami 15 years ago this month. My wife and I spent that awful “holiday season” living in Bruce Weber and Nan Bush’s Golden Beach guesthouse while I handled my mom’s funeral arrangements and spent days with my father as he fought for his life in Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Bruce and Nan and their extended family of sweet and loving golden retrievers kept us functioning in the pain-blur of those weeks. Bruce and his pack would troop down Golden Beach to love us up every morning before my wife and I left for the hospital. The shaggy and soulful retrievers bounded around us on the sand, nudging us with their big, leonine heads, gazing up at us with knowing, heavy-browed, concerned faces, reassuring us that joy and silly fun still existed outside the grim I.C.U. And there was Bruce, chiding, loving, and—like Tolkien’s shape-shifter bear-man, Beorn—part man, part golden retriever, alpha of the pack.
I had known Bruce for years, but in those sad, desperate weeks, I saw and felt the full power of his friendship and reveled in his deep and beautiful connection to that family of dogs.
There is something bittersweet about Bruce Weber, the man and the artist. (Is there a difference with Bruce?) He laughs often and easily with me (usually followed by “Oh, Mitch … ”), lives a huge, full life (many perfect homes in perfect places), but there’s a beautiful sadness in him, a full embrace of the inevitable ride of this life. Bruce’s caught and curated images celebrate fun, beauty, and youth, but, simultaneously, they accept fragility. I feel time passing in his every frame.
And nothing, no subject, reveals the heart of Bruce Weber more than these photographs of his family of golden retrievers. I’ve wondered how, for more than half a century, Bruce could survive the relentless heartbreak of losing his beloved dogs. How, over and over, he could give each one all of himself, all of his love, knowing how fleeting their time together will be. But maybe it’s that very impermanence that deepens and fuels his devotion to them.
And, I guess, also the faith that his eye and art will keep those dear friends alive forever. For him … and now for all of us.
A signing of Bruce Weber: The Golden Retriever Photographic Society will take place at Taschen Miami Beach on December 1 at five P.M.
Mitch Glazer is a Los Angeles–based writer