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Home » ARTS AND CULTURE in CT » CONNECTICUT (all topics) » New England Ruins
New England Ruins

Rob Dobi Finds Beauty in Unlikely Places

By Mark B. Oliver | January 27, 2012

Rob Dobi was born and raised in Connecticut, and while he was at school his talent for, and love of, illustration became apparent.

Stamford Lock

Encouraged and supported by his parents, he continued to draw, but like most children, he was drawing for fun with little thought of his long term future.   This changed however between his junior and senior year at High School.

“I wanted to find a job that I loved, and that led me to think of art as a possible career.   That summer I took a pre-college course in illustration and was hooked,” explains Dobi.

Dobi enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island to study for a BFA in illustration, graduating in 2003.

It was during his time at Providence that he found himself looking downtown and seeing all of the factories and other buildings that were falling into ruin and disrepair.   In 1999, armed with one of the earliest digital cameras on the market that took floppy discs (remember them?), Dobi sought to document the stories these buildings had to tell.

One site that Dobi has photographed is the Winchester Arms in New Haven, CT.   A 400,000 square foot facility that opened in 1866 and once employed 19,000 people during World War II. Since filing for bankruptcy in 1989, the factory has remained dormant.

A Forgotten Chandelier at the Majestic

“The Winchester Arms is this huge building but rather than photograph big open spaces, I like to go into one wing, and then find one room, and photograph something small that’s been discarded but which tells a story.”

In the slideshow that accompanies this article, two prime examples of this can be seen.   The roll of film lying on the floor (if you look closely enough you can see people on the film) and the ‘While You Were Out’ notes.

“Even as a child I questioned the significance of abandoned buildings and the stories they could tell by simply walking through them.   Due to years of neglect, these sites have typically become eyesores for those who pass by them every day. What remains inside tells a different story altogether.”

Two gorgeous theaters sit vacant under one roof on a vacant and abandoned block in downtown Bridgeport, CT.   The Majestic closed in 1971 and The Palace was reduced to screening adult films in 1974 and closed a year later.   Passersby would think they were nothing more than a discarded, run down, office block, but inside the opulent glamour of yesteryear is surprising well preserved.

“These theaters would never be built today, it would simply cost too much.   As long as their roofs remain intact and nobody leaves a window open, they can remain virtually untouched for decades.   Once moisture enters however deterioration can be rapid,” Dobi notes. “It’s demolition by neglect.”

For Dobi, photography is a decade long hobby, to which he devotes about one day a week.   His photographic work has been featured in Preservation Magazine, the Connecticut Post, and McGraw-Hill textbooks.

And what of his illustrations?

CD packaging for "The Troubled Stateside" LP

Dobi, who currently resides in Bridgeport, CT with his dog Buddy, works primarily in the record industry designing labels, posters and covers.   His work speaks for itself, and he obtains most of his commissions through word-of-mouth as one client recommends him to another.

His resume is extremely impressive with such high profile bands as The Rolling Stones, Blink-182, and Green Day among his many clients.

Another creative outlet for Dobi is his illustrations of, and commentary on, the hipster scene, a satirical look at some of the passing trends found in twentysomething attire.   Dobi displays keen observational humor in his work.

What has the reaction been like?

“From most people it’s overwhelming positive, but I do receive some very sharply worded emails from people who think I am making fun of ‘their scene.’ They fail to see that these are affectionate portrayals, many of which I have identified with at some time.”

Steampunk is the subject of one of Dobi’s illustrations, a topic that was covered by ONE when the Steampunk exhibit at the Mark Twain House and Museum was reviewed.   Here is an excerpt from Dobi’s description of the Steampunk scene:


“The Steampunk can be found attending various conventions and ballroom dances devoted to his fantasy world. The preferred method of transportation to these events is via zeppelin or steam engine, but most end up using the city bus.   One can say that Steampunk is ‘What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner’ but the reality is that Steampunk is what happens when Goths discover the color brown.”

Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Steampunk scene will be able to spot the inherent humor.   Other scenes tackled by Dobi include the Apple Store Indie, and the Williamsburg Hipster.   Head over to his dedicated website to discover more.

And what of the future?

“I’m hoping to move away from what I am doing now towards more editorial work, which will provide more opportunity for my work to be smarter.”

Prints of Dobi’s photographs are available for purchase at his Imagekind Print Store, and his book Your Scene Sucks is also available for purchase here.

All images appear courtesy of, and are copyright, Rob Dobi.


New England Ruins Website: http://www.newenglandruins.com/

New England Ruins on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/newenglandruins

Rob Dobi’s Website: http://www.dobi.nu/

Online Store: http://robdobi.imagekind.com/

Email: robdobi@gmail.com

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