Photographer captures National Guard soldiers in civilian workplaces

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On a 4-degree January morning, Buddy Doyle pulled off the road to wish a random soldier luck in Iraq.

“We argue to this day who initiated the long, lingering hug,” said Doyle of Gardiner. “I told him, ‘Take care of yourself. Don’t do anything stupid.’”

A year and a half after that chance meeting near the National Guard armory in Gardiner, when the soldier had returned home, Doyle looked the guy up.

“I had told him I wanted to shake his hand,” he said. “I still did.”

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He had another goal, too.

A photographer, writer and designer, Doyle had spent years creating glossy calenders of firefighters. Now he hatched a plan to take portraits of reservists guard members at their civilian jobs. He wanted the soldier’s help.

Five years later, the soldier — Sgt. Dan Flanders of Bangor — has become a kind of son to Doyle and his wife. When his Gardiner-based National Guard unit has its monthly drills, Flanders stays in Doyle’s spare room.

And when Doyle compiled his photographs into a book, “Faces of the Maine Guard & Reserve,” he put Flanders on the cover.

“It had to be him,” Doyle said of the cover photo. Flanders — a firefighter — is pictured in his uniform. He has a sober, impenetrable expression.

“He is my everyman,” Doyle said.

In a way, so are the others. They include farmers, nurses, doctors, cops and carpenters; 48 in all.

Among them is Portland attorney Adam Cote, who ran for Congress, and Shawn Chabot, the assistant principal at Lewiston’s Thomas J. McMahon Elementary School.

Doyle got the idea from German photographer August Sander, who made portraits in the first half of the 20th century. He managed to find something authentic in the faces of regular folks in their workplaces.

“When I taught photography in California, I always included Sander,” Doyle said. “The nobility of work and labor rang through.”

When he started shooting people for his calenders, Doyle decided to follow the master’s heightened realism.

By design, he approached each shoot cold. He never knew ahead of time the setting of a photo or what the person might wear.

The resulting photos drew so much praise, including compliments from Maine National Guard leaders, that Doyle decided to create the book.

It also exposes the work to a continuing audience.

“The shelf life of a calender is one year,” Doyle said.

He hopes to get the book in front of as many people as possible. Using several donations — including a grant from Oakhurst Dairy — Doyle gave free copies to Maine legislators with the promise that they give them to local libraries. Doyle also hopes to get them onto as many waiting room tables as possible, hoping to leverage donations from private businesses.

He is selling copies online at his website, octoberpublications.com. Each costs $19.95.

“I want people to see this book, whether they buy it or not,” said Doyle, who self-published the book.

He hopes to remind people of the sacrifices still being made by people in the war, he said.

Doyle said he is proud that the book has been embraced by the Maine Guard. Comments from several people, including Maj. Gen. Bill Libby, are included in the forward to the book.

“This book and the images contained herein now become part of the historical record of the long and distinguished history of the Maine National Guard,” Libby wrote.

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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