There’s an old saying that goes, “If something really belongs to you, you can’t lose it.” That statement directly applies to photography and Mitch Dobrowner. After he discovered photography as a teenager and began achieving recognition in his early 20s, he left it behind to start a business and a family — only to return to the camera 20 years later and find success in black-and-white landscape photography.
Growing up in Bethpage, New York, on Long Island, Dobrowner felt lost and got in plenty of trouble. As he tells it, “My dad gave me his old Argus Rangefinder, wondering — will this work? Will he be interested in this? I was. I gravitated right to the camera.”
Before long he had a darkroom set up in his basement. He was offered a scholarship at Pratt Institute, which he declined, and later attended the New York Institute of Technology for a short time, which didn’t suit him. “I chose the ‘teach myself’ mode instead of the academic mode,” he says. He walked around Manhattan with his portfolio and obtained assistantships with Peter Turner and Hashi. He also got a job doing sensitometry, which involved manufacturing film and doing the sensitometer readings. “I wanted to learn enough about film so I wasn’t intimidated by it,” he explains.
His first big break came at Hashi’s studio, where a Canon representative saw his portfolio. “They cut me a small check and said, ‘We want to do something with you.’ I ended up using the money to say, I’m out of here. I wanted to see the Southwest and California. I had lived in New York my whole life, and I knew it was the season to leave.”
More of this article can be read in the Summer 2011 issue.