Brian Doben Builds a Familiarity on Set
When Magdalena Cebula, Associate Creative Director at SENSIS, was looking for a photographer for an upcoming UCLA campaign she stumbled upon Brian Doben’s At Work series. Although she thought Brian would be a good fit for the project she had in mind, that’s not why she reached out to him immediately. It was more personal than that. “I just wanted to tell him that I really, really liked it,” says Magdalena. But when it came time to choose a photographer for the campaign, she didn’t think of anyone else when she picked up the phone. As she says, “he was the first person I contacted to actually shoot the thing.” Soon enough they were working on a series of advertisements for UCLA Extension, a continuing education off shoot of UCLA whose professors bring their real life experience into the classroom to offer a greater context to their students.
Much like his At Work series, Brian captured each of his subjects in the process of doing work. At least it looks like that. “These images were shot on a TV commercial set,” says Brian. But he was very carful to compose every image to be truthful while still communicating the message as clearly as possible. “I was very clear that all the props in all the scenes, meaning books, pictures, are all actual parts of their space. Those are all Kirk’s miscellaneous accessories down to the pen.” By cultivating an environment as familiar as possible, Brian is able to bring an extra level of comfort into the images.
Each personal item that populates the images and sets makes for a personal connection not only to the space, but also to the event of capturing the photograph. “When you’re trying to capture an honest image it’s very important that you keep the environment as true as it is,” says Brian. “I wanted all the accoutrements to be real and tangible and conversation worthy because that will bring the subject to a very honest, simple playing field.” As that affinity is built between photographer, subject, and space the moments that Brian is able to capture become more subtle, freer, and ultimately more captivating.
In one circumstance they went above and beyond to communicate that personal space. Fernando Demoraes, an architect, brought a huge amount of personal effects to fill the space. “Everything in that environment is actually from his office,” says Brian. “Everything there is something that he uses. When you hold something that’s not yours it becomes an unfamiliar moment and you don’t have any emotional connection to it,” he explains. By including his subjects in the process Brian was able to build a comfortable ease on set. With Kirk Sanduski, the Film and TV Producer Brian made sure the journal and the pen were his own. “Handing him his journal gave him the ability to go back into his world,” says Brian. And that’s the world we want to see.