Personal Projects: Brian Doben

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this new revised thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist: Brian Doben

I started ‘At Work’ after 15 years as a commercial photographer. After all that time I remembered that I became a photographer not for money, fame, or travel, but to get out of my own life and start telling stories of others through portrait. Before ‘At Work’ I used to walk in with an armada, both in terms of crew and over thinking the scene, but the story was right in front of me, and the magic was two feet in front of me. I realized my job is to kind of sit back, see it, and then capture it. Now, I walk into the space where my subjects do their work and I let them talk first. And I find when I do that and I listen, and I don’t interrupt, there’s a trust that comes.

We spend more time working than anything else, so what people choose to do with that time is precious. I went to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles to photograph their Taxidermist not knowing he was going to walk us to the area of the exhibit with the family of three elephants. I have a family of three elephants tattooed on my arm, to represent my wife, daughter, and I. I’ve had that tattoo for several years. I got it because I heard elephants follow the same path for generations and my wish for my family is that we stay together through all that time. I had no idea that I was going to take that picture that day but these moments are gifts that is what ‘At Work’ all about.

It’s a conversation, it’s people sharing their inner thoughts about why they do what they do. There’s something to be said about open conversation and the ability to just talk and share what’s going on inside their mind. It just was kind of this snowball effect, one thing leads to another leads to another.

I try to empower the person to own their space. And then the challenge at times can be how I then have to capture the image, because sometimes it’s easier to pose everything but that’s not necessarily how they would really sit on their desk or on in their chair, so I ask them to turn it to what would really suit them best.

Sometimes it’s a space that blurs the lines between life and work like Muffy Kroha’s eclectic and bright home, and sometimes it’s much more at the edge. I’ve been from Antarctica to the North Pole to Madagascar. Then, in Havana, Cuba, it was hotter than you can imagine in a tiny room, it was just extreme conditions but what I found there was so beautiful. All these street performers were getting ready and there was this magic kind of family sense that they had with each other where they were helping each other. It was just an incredible, quiet scene. Just seeing people who love what they do on that scale took me out of that very sweaty, hot situation and just made me really excited.

What I’m learning more and more in my journey within this world is that perfection is unobtainable because in every moment we’ll see things differently. We’ll see a moment that should have been, could have been, but what’s important is the actual moment that happens. To really create ‘authentic, organic imagery’ is to allow it not be perfect. I want to create relatable images, not aspirational.

You can view more of the At Work project here:

And follow Brian on Instagram @briandoben

To see more of this project, click here.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s. After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.


Suzanne Sease

There Are 1 Comment On This Article.

  1. I can never seem to stay on task with my personal projects. I always get distracted with new ideas, like this project. Brian is amazing. I checked out the site (love the intro) and followed on IG to stay in the loop.