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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Douglas Dubler: Fine Art & Commerce

Douglas Dubler brings an artist’s sensibilities to every job he gets

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Fashion photographer Douglas Dubler has managed to blend his fine-art aesthetic into his daily work projects. He brings his experience and vision as a sculptor and silk-screen artist to fashion photography by creating images that bring a three-dimensional aspect to a two-dimensional art form. And he does all of this in-camera because he has great disdain for tricks and special effects in postproduction.

In anything that Dubler creates, it boils down to quality and a passion for integrity. “My approach to my work is driven by simply wanting to do the best job, period,” he states. “My motivation comes as a result of my fine-art background. Isamu Noguchi was an early mentor, as was Ansel Adams. The funny thing is that I didn’t set out to be a commercial photographer; I simply got lucky and made some money.”

Commercial And Fine-Art Photographer
Dubler takes great pains to emphasize that he has turned down more money than he has made for a variety of reasons. “First of all, my life is all about having control,” he explains. “It’s not about letting someone else have it. Back in the days when I was shooting a variety of jobs and making a lot of money, I would do national cosmetic ads—two shots a day. And that’s what I did. I spent the morning on one shot and the afternoon on the other. I hardly shot catalogs, unlike most commercial fashion shooters. I’ve probably only done 20 in my whole life.”

Dubler doesn’t see himself as a commercial photographer by day and a fine-art photographer by night. “For me, it’s all the same; that is, I don’t differentiate between my personal fine-art work and the commercial work I do,” he says. “Everything that I do ends up having that look. Now, obviously, when I’m doing my beauty photography, it’s all about the flash photography and the lighting. I am very, very, very particular about that and the beauty lights that I use. As with the fine-art images I create, I find a technique that’s all in the camera, never in postproduction. I don’t rely on Photoshop to create my images.”

The Onslaught Of Digital
Dubler was aware of the impending digital revolution and kept a watchful eye on the tools as they developed. “I had been watching it evolve for years,” he says. “I’m not interested in low-quality images so I waited for the tools to mature. A lot of people started earlier than me with 2-megapixel cameras, and I had cameras like that for fine-art projects. I did a crazy thing when the first Phase One LightPhase 6 MP back for the Hasselblad was released: I stopped shooting film. In my busy studio, I simply decided that we were just shooting digital and that’s it.”

Such a radical decision to change course caused tremendous upheaval in his production workflow. “What proved challenging at that time was that I didn’t know how to work a computer,” he admits. “I hired a woman to work with me and get me up to speed in four months. Talk about being nervous and in a bad mood! I dealt with both computer crashes and camera crashes. And remember that this was Macintosh OS 9—with the attendant extension conflicts. This whole thing was a nightmare, but despite all of that, I saw where it was going.”


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