John Bigelow Taylor and Dianne Dubler have had their fair share of exciting jobs throughout their careers. They have traveled to Afghanistan, photographed Madeleine Albright’s pin collection for their book Read My Pins: Stories From a Diplomat’s Jewel Box. Taylor was the personal photographer for the Dalai Lama in 1993, 1995, and 1997, when he came to talk to Congress about the crisis in Tibet. They have photographed work for more than 300 books, and have also created their own publishing company, where they create estate books for private families.
Dubler and Taylor originally met in 1970 in Princeton, NJ. Months later, they bumped into each other in a chance encounter on a street in Amsterdam and stayed in touch. After returning to the U.S. and experiencing the era’s unrest due to the Vietnam War, they decided to leave together to live in Afghanistan, Nepal, and India. While abroad, the couple’s non-commercial photography was inspired by the many Tibetans they met there.
Ultimately, their careers brought them back to U.S. soil, where they continued to follow their passion for still-life photography. About two years ago, they permanently relocated to Highland Falls after splitting time between Manhattan and the Hudson Valley for many years.
“For years our work was both in the studio and on location, but as time has gone on, most of our work is on location and we really didn’t need the studio anymore,” Taylor says. “We got tired of making that shift back and forth every week between the city and up here.”
While working with high-profile clients like Albright, Elizabeth Taylor, and Kenneth Jay Lane, Dubler and Taylor stumbled upon the idea that led to their passion project. On one client’s table sat Baron Rothschild’s Red Book, an album of his estate under construction and then finished. Curious as to why it existed, they asked what its purpose was.
“It was the ultimate take-away to give a house guest that was important,” Taylor says. “You would hand them this book, and they would take the house with them. I thought it was a pretty good idea.” By the way, the “important house guest” for whom the Rothschild Red Book was initially produced was Queen Victoria.
This inspired the two to begin creating red books for people with important homes, grounds, and/or art collections who wanted to create a legacy for their family, allowing a small number of copies to live on for generations. These red books, along with packaged collections for commercial use, grew into their personal publishing company, Kubaba Bespoke Books.
While their red book projects bring them lots of joy, their love for working with big-name clients has never diminished. Their most recent project, Stardust: The Work and Life of Jeweler Extraordinaire Frédéric Zaavy, was published in November 2020 and is a collection that covers the life and work of the late Parisian artist-jeweler, who designed for Fabergé. Dubler describes it as the story of the artist, his home, his travels, and his jewels.
“This book is a good reflection of all the kinds of photography we do,” Taylor says.