Brian Doben's At Work Goes to the Ends of the Earth
When Brian Doben started shooting portraits for At Work, it wasn’t to do anything else other than tell the stories of the people he met. He wasn’t trying to shoot a book, or make money off of it. It was just an expression of what brought him to photography in the first place: people. “I didn’t become a photographer for money, fame, or travel,” Brian explains. “I became a photographer to get out of my own life and start telling stories of others through portrait.”
The At Work series is a direct line into what people do. Brian finds people who work in their passion, whose work is who they are, and gives them permission to reveal themselves and their work. He captures those moments and delivers them untouched.
Rebecca Scholand is a weather observer on Mount Washington, who faces the wrath of nature on a daily basis. When Brian shot her he experienced the most severe weather he’s ever met, and he’s met a lot of nature. “I’ve been from Antarctica to the North Pole to Madagascar,” says Brian. But when he was outside on Mt Washington, shooting Rebecca at the height of winter and facing 95mph winds, it was a totally different story. “I’ve been quite a few places in my time… I’ve seen Mother Nature in her power. But that was pretty scary. I was very scared actually. Essentially scared.” Between the pelting snow and freezing temperature, his entire camera was encased in a shell of ice. But the camera kept clicking away, and he got some unreal images. “I have a photograph of her and she’s levitating off the ground. The wind had lifted her.”
Larry Mongos, who owns D’Mongos Speakeasy in Detroit, lives on his own edge of the world. With being the proprietor of the popular late night spot means that Larry sees a lot of faces go through his doors, and he gets a lot of attention because of it. He’s done his fair share of interviews and photo shoots. He’s a seasoned pro. But Brian wanted to get through all that, and what he found was really surprising. When Larry and Brian sat down, Brian put down the camera and allowed the two of them to connect as people, instead of as a photographer and his subject. They talked about life, Detroit, and Larry’s childhood. Brian learned that Larry grew up really poor, in a neighborhood that was largely Jewish. At the time Larry was coming up, his life experience was being steeped in a community that had just survived The Holocaust. He was surrounded by survivors. He was so touched by the stories of these people that it helped him get through his own trials. “He had a really tough childhood. He had a really tough upbringing,” Brian says. “But the only thing that ever got him through it was seeing people who had survived something that he could never understand surviving.” Brian captured a moment during this sharing where he and Larry were able to find something to laugh about again.
After all, Brian explains, that’s what the At Work series is about. “It’s about really connecting with people and having a real understanding of each other.”