• 10.3.16

    Brian Doben Risks It All for PayPal

    In Brian Doben’s ongoing At Work series he goes into the spaces of strangers and photographs them while they perform their dharma, the work of their life. It’s intimate and revealing to show how regular people spend one whole third of their lives putting all their energies into a single focus. PayPal caught wind of Brian’s personal work and wanted him to bring that same energy to their latest campaign so it became a question of synthesis. How do they create a realistic representation while still revealing energetic truth? “PayPal needed a very broad range of moments in life that visually can fulfill so many possibilities in terms of uses for them,” explains Brian. “It was literally months and months of conception and it was very collaborative throughout. We came up with moments that felt really as authentic as possible where PayPal could be used as a tool.” 

    To take these relatively mundane moments and turn them into captivating imagery, Brian needed to make sure his subjects would come alive provided a very narrow set of possibilities. Brian solves this by casting an unexpected type of subject. “The casting was crucial. I tend to work with actors rather than models because I essentially put them in a role and give them a scene,” Brian explains. “I give them license to really work through it within certain parameters that I’m looking for, but to really explore it and let them go outside the box. In the real world, these people may do something that’s slightly imperfect or extremely imperfect, that makes the image perfect.” Giving over that sort of control can be risky for a photographer, but it’s that risk that makes or breaks the project. “If you don’t put the chips on the table you’re never going to really make it,” Brian says.

    For Brian, this project wasn’t so different from At Work. It all stems from finding the humanity in every moment and allowing that to speak through. “I am going to people who are imperfect and embracing everything about that, creating an image that is true to who they are and not necessarily in any way trying to box them up and wrap them, and package them out," says Brian. "That is what a lot of advertising is. So I came up with this process that keeps it in line with the same process I use for my series.” Combining these processes, and taking the trusting risk, means that everything comes together to create moments that are true to their representation, familiar to the viewer, and still something great to look at.

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