Douglas Dubler is a fashion and beauty photographer who seamlessly joins craft and creativity to produce some of the most memorable images in editorial, advertising and fine art photography. Dubler has been able to achieve this union by synthesizing right and left brain thinking. His early training in Fine and Liberal Arts at Boston University enriched him with an articulate sense of form, color, and composition. Initial experiences as a plastic sculptor and silk screen artist instilled in him a great respect for the craft and workmanship necessary to create fine art, and produced the dedication to detail that appears in his work as a photographer. Early mentors in his creative life were Ansel Adams and Isamu Noguchi.
Dublerʼs professional photographic career began in the late ʻ60ʼs in California and the Virgin Islands where he photographed underwater life. Seeking dry land, he made the transition to studio photography in the early ʻ70ʼs. In 1976 his desire for commercial success drew him to Los Angeles where he began to specialize in fashion and beauty photography. During this period Douglas was mentored by renowned fashion photographer Neal Barr with whom he has maintained a decades long friendship.
Working primarily with major motion picture studios, Douglas photographed celebrities and subsequently obtained cosmetic assignments from Max Factor and Redken Laboratories. In addition he also began working as a photographic consultant and special photographer on feature films.
A native of Missouri, in the Midwestern United States, I worked as a newspaper photojournalist for fourteen years, on stories large and small, local and international. I photographed people and events ranging from local high school athletes to national political conventions and documented the United States’ military interventions in Panama, Haiti and Somalia.
On a spring day in 1997, while photographing in Sacramento, California, a gang of a half-dozen angry young men accosted me, demanding my film. I was summarily beaten, kicked and stomped, left for dead, bleeding on a sidewalk in front of a group of horrified children. I remember almost none of it.
I began to re-surface in the next weeks, and found myself residing at Sierra Gates, a quiet, pine-paneled brain injury treatment residence. I was unclear how I arrived there or even why I was there at all. Over the next 2 1/2 months I took the first unsteady steps I needed in order to rebuild my life, which would include re-learning how to walk and even re-learning how to remember.
My experience of the world had changed drastically, especially my relationship with time, which I learned was due to my diminished short-term memory and attention capabilities. Six months after my release from Sierra Gates, as an exercise with my speech therapist, I decided to return there to photograph. Having been attacked because I was a photographer I needed to learn how to be a photographer once again, and to understand why my life had become so different. As the criminal justice process unfolded over the next two years, I continued to photograph at Sierra Gates until I could no longer emotionally bear it. But it was through this act of fixing images of my experiences outside my injured brain that I learned to place myself once again in time.
I didn’t know what to do with these pictures at first, but with the help of friends I was invited to a printing/editing residency at Light Work and eventually to exhibitions at festivals and galleries in France, Germany and the U.S. After much cognitive and psychological work, I will finally publish a book of the pictures, The Burden of Memory, later this year.
In Mexico, on March 24, 2001, the fourth anniversary of my attack, I took my first pictures for what became an ongoing project focusing on the massive human alteration of the Colorado River.
Going to places I have never been, figuratively or literally, is one of my favorite things. And I feel lucky that the range of clients and projects I have worked with for the past two decades has allowed me to shoot in five continents and meet all kinds of people: scientists, farmers, businesspeople, orphans, doctors, community activists, families, monks.
I am also adaptable in my approach to work. Can I shoot video? Yes. Can I direct a shoot remotely from 13 time zones away? Yes. Can I carry all my own equipment across multiple sites for weeks on end? Yes. Being married to one kind of equipment or to one visual approach is not for me. What matters most is telling visual stories and finding the essence of people in the simplest way possible.
Growing up in multicultural New York City gave me the foundation to feel comfortable in any setting, whether or not I speak the language of my subjects. At 18, I ditched electrical engineering when I discovered photography and spent a summer in Paris, followed by some study in Parsons School of Design. But what shaped me the most as a photographer was old-fashioned apprenticeship, as assistant to photographers who showed me how to make photos that look effortless even when working in the toughest situations.