In these days of high unemployment, the idea of having a job and doing it well is not something to be taken for granted.

Buddy Doyle captures that concept in a new book, “Faces of the Maine Guard & Reserve” (October Publications, www.octoberpublications.com).

Doyle is a photographer from Gardiner, and his book is essentially a photo narrative of the men and women who make a living among us and who also serve in the Maine National Guard.

Doyle took the photographs for an ongoing calendar series that he began publishing in 2006. The idea for making a book out of his project surfaced last year as he began thinking about the value of a job.

The unifying bond among his subjects is their service to the Maine National Guard and Reserve units. But Doyle felt there was something else that brought them together.

“They all do their jobs really well in the civilian world,” he said. “Outside the guard, they are exemplary employees and members of their community.”

The book includes a full-page photo of each subject in his or her civilian working life, as well as a smaller image taken during service time on duty with the guard, often in Iraq.

Doyle’s goal is to humanize the soldiers, to help make us aware that the folks we read about in the news truly are our neighbors. They are not nameless, faceless people. They work in our schools, serve in our fire departments and farm our fields. Some are lawyers. Others drive trucks.

In addition to the photographs, the book also includes an essay by Maj. Gen. John W. “Bill” Libby, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, who reminds us that Maine ranks only behind Alaska in the percentage of its civilian population who are veterans.

Last week, Doyle distributed books at the Capitol in Augusta. He gave each legislator two copies — one for their personal use, the other to be given to each legislator’s hometown library.

The project appears to have legs. Doyle hopes to expand his idea to other New England states, and he’s also received inquiries about the possibility of showing his work at the Pentagon. 

Q: In your photos, you ask your subjects to look right into your lens. Why?

A: That’s just my style. I think a portrait is more compelling when the subject is looking right into the lens. You can read something into them. The kid on the cover, Dan Landers from Bangor, you could do a whole article on my relationship with him at this point and how it’s grown over the years. He was the first one I photographed. A couple of them are smiling because it’s a natural thing for them to do.

I just love portraiture, and I wish I could earn a living in Maine doing it. It’s the relationship between me and the subject. Nature photography, I don’t know — I’ve never had a relationship with a tree. But with a person, that’s different. Sometimes it might be as short a time as 15 minutes, and that’s all it takes to get a winner. But sometimes, it takes a lot longer, and you really have to get to know a person to find who they are and what they’re about in order to capture them and make them feel at ease. 

Q: What are the underlying traits or characteristics of these men and women that make them uniquely qualified to serve in the guard?

A: The common ground is their willingness and ability to serve their country. The book and calendar from the get-go took a nonpartisan approach to the subject. There are no yellow ribbons and there are no flags, unless they are on the shoulders of their uniform. They go and they do what they need to do whether they like it or not, whether they are Republicans or Democrats. And when they are done with their duty, they come home and work in their communities.

Q: What makes a subject interesting to you as photographer?

A: I think just the rapport and the way the person interacts with me. Some people are extremely shy. Other people are real gung-ho and, “What do you want me to do?”

You can control it to some degree, but this has nothing to do with equipment or pixels. It’s just that relationship with subject and photographer that makes it so compelling. No one turned me down. All were willing to do it. In some cases, I think some of these people have never been photographed at all, except for maybe a family picture. 

Q: How long have you been making photos, and what led you down that path?

A: Since 1969, when I was flunking out of a predental program and took a photography elective to get my GPA above 2.0. I was hooked after that. I signed up for photography, and my instructor became my best friend. I’m not a very good reader, but I am a good looker.

There was something about (Henri) Cartier-Bresson, a French photographer who just died a few years ago. When I look at his photos of Paris or World War II, I get some strange deja vu that I have been to those places. To me, photography is just so compelling. It’s so real, and so relatable. 

Q: What is your goal for this book? What message are you trying to get across?

A: I just want people to appreciate the fact that these people — and many before them and after them — are working and serving for you. I don’t want to go so far as to say they are sacrificing their lives, but these are people that are shedding blood for us every day, quite frankly. I think we need to get our arms around the fact that they are doing a good job, and they deserve some recognition. 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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