They were taken within five miles of Dobrowner’s house in LA’s Studio City, but he’s always looking for shots where you don’t know where you are. These pictures aren’t about the here and now. “I think we just borrow what we have. In 500 years in California the houses will probably be gone and something else will stand there. When I take these pictures, I am asking what this place will look like when we aren’t here.” Have you ever seen the Hollywood sign perched on its little hill look so meek and forgotten about, or a power station so powerless?
Growing up in New York in the 1960s and 1970s, Dobrowner was more interested in motorcycles and trouble than in photography. To keep him on the straight and narrow, his father bought him a camera. Then he discovered Ansel Adams. “I didn’t even know who he was. I’d never seen dramatic landscapes like that on the east coast,” he says. “I had to see it for myself.” Adams gave him not just a subject, but a sense of craft and meticulousness too. When he gets a new camera, Dobrowner will take it apart and put it back together again—“it has to be an extension of my arm”. He used to make his own film. When he started making photographs digitally, it took three years and tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of ink and paper before he produced prints that satisfied him.
Pictured: The San Fernando Valley Generating Station is dwarfed by the San Gabriel Mountains behind it. When Dobrowner began showing these pictures to friends, they barely noticed that there were buildings in them