Thursday, 10 December 2020
Tuesday, 1 December 2020
When using both platforms in a session I usually start shooting with my Canon 5D MkII and an 85mm lens - I also love using my 50mm - 1.8. It's light, sharp and discrete - a beautiful lens for portraits. This allows plenty of shooting with no concern for film and processing costs while also creating a nice warm up period - a time for the subject and I to relax.
Stay tuned for my next posts that will talk about the back story and technical details of individual images from the slideshow gallery above.
If you have time try viewing the slideshow in 'full screen mode' which is accessed by clicking on the square four arrow symbol at the far right bottom of the slideshow window. To resume regular viewing size click the 'escape' key on your keyboard or the square four arrow symbol.
To go directly to my website click on the words Michael O'Brien underneath the gallery; to go straight to the gallery page on the website click on the link People in black and white on the bottom left under the gallery. Clicking directly on the image will also take you through to the gallery as seen on my web site.mn
Sunday, 22 November 2020
We started shooting in digital with a Canon 5D, 85mm - f1.8 combo; this allowed a relaxed pace to develop with minimal hassle. Then I switched to Kodak film loaded in a Hasselblad with a Zeiss 150mm lens - a lens that I love for it's softness. Of course the cameras were tripod mounted.
The way to create the setting or mood for this type of portrait is to keep it real; be respectful of the subject's requests at all times....really listen and be attentive to the body language as it unfolds during the session; for instance move the camera closer to create more intimacy but watch closely for nervous fidgeting, shielding movements etc. If the person is clearly uncomfortable, then back off no matter what they say. Many people, just to be polite, will say they are comfortable when you ask them, even though they clearly are not. I keep talking while shooting....but not superficial chatter - I ask questions, probe, build on the rapport and trust established during our previous meetings. Trust is the key. Respect is the volition. Hiding behind the camera creates a barrier so I try my best to open to the other person in a real way, to give something of myself so it is an exchange rather than a one way street with me in control. If this isn't received well then I just listen and move the session along with a question here and there.
Wednesday, 18 November 2020
| From the 'TIME' series by Yoshihiko Ito|
I see Japanese photographer YOSHIHIKO ITO is a magician who takes 'everyday' subjects and, with his singular vision, weaves them into alternate realities. The first time I saw the work of Yoshihiko Ito was in New York City during an AIPAD exhibition. His highly unique black and white images are quite shamanic in nature; it's like he dives into the archetypal world then brings back truly intriguing works of art. Many of his pieces are made in editions of one.
Sunday, 6 September 2020
Sunday, 23 August 2020
Check out this really important (and very funny) talk by Ken Robinson. It's about how education systems around the world squeeze the life out of the creativity of our children.
Sunday, 9 August 2020
Tuesday, 21 April 2020
|Staircase inside The Museum of the American Indian, |
Manhattan, New York City
How do we start the journaling process? - what is it actually for? and what can it do for us? For starters, journaling is not the same as keeping a diary or log. It's more than a dry description of the daily events in our lives, however useful such a log may be - it's not a bunch of lists. Sometimes journaling involves giving accounts of events in our lives, but then goes on to explore how the event impacts us (or not) and how we feel about the event. The journal entry may then go on to explore why that event affects us the way it does.
There are many different ways and reasons for journaling - ultimately we need adapt journaling to suit our needs - in this sense it becomes a very individual creative process whereby we build a bridge for emotions and images from the unconscious part of mind to cross over into our conscious. This unconscious mind has been described as being as vast as the ocean is to a single human - and just as full of nutrients and treasures.
The following quote sums up one aspect of journaling:
"Particularly among creative people – from Leonardo da Vinci to Anais Nin – journal-keeping has historically been a vehicle for releasing tensions, resolving conflicts, working through crises and connecting with the intuitive inner self – the “person within the person,” as philosopher/psychologist Ira Progoff described it, who can be the source of so much sound guidance and wisdom – your best counselor and spiritual advisor, in fact".
Quoted from 'Life Examined – The Progoff Intensive Journal Process' by Ellen Littleton click here to see the whole article - it's really good.
Sunday, 19 April 2020
Sunday, 29 September 2019
The Healing Forests Of The Pacific Northwest
We have a long and deep relationship with trees. Humanity has historically looked to trees for their healing properties and medicines. While we’ve made preparations from the leaves, bark or roots, humans have also known that to simply be in the presence of plant beings can be healing and can be ‘plant medicine'.
Trees are potent living sources and symbols of spiritual and physical healing, regeneration, immortality and salvation. Tree medicine also works on us at a deep psychological/spiritual level beyond our awareness; trees have been seen as channels for divine energy for millennia. I believe we are still touched by that ancient world view even if we aren’t consciously aware of it. This can be seen in the recent phenomenon of Japanese ‘forest bathing’ now reaching the West, where people are guided into forests so they may be washed, cleansed and purified by the spiritual forces that pulsate through the woods in an all-encompassing unity – like a green baptism.
The impetus behind this series comes from my empathy for Indigenous culture and spirituality - many thanks to the generous Indigenous elders and friends who've guided and taught me along the way. They shared with me ways and viewpoints that provided a roadmap that’s helped me to feel Spirit in my own culture and everywhere around me. Using this roadmap brought about a shift in my worldview – a shift that opened me to the beauty of nature again. Now I use photography as a tool to explore the raw elemental power of the natural world by visiting and re-visiting places I’m drawn to in order to be touched by their spiritual essence. I try to receive images from these sacred places that contain this essence so it may be shared with others.
Tuesday, 19 March 2019
Jeff Thomas is a 2019 winner of the Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts. Directed by Pixie Cram.
Monday, 25 February 2019
An excerpt from a letter to GBC administrators:
“Hi Michael - thank you for the great course you gave on the Power of Light. It really helped me understand the potential of light in photography, and how to deal with light in the digital age.
Friday, 20 April 2018
|High Park - Spring, Toronto|
Good photographs are usually based on good ideas, concepts or viewpoints. The methods we employ to craft these photographs are called techniques. Much is written about technique and too little about concepts. Quite often the ideas find us. Although there's no single way to do this, I'm offering four steps to get started.
Once in motion, a good idea will keep us engaged with our photography. Of all the skills that keep highly creative people producing works, the ability to find inspiration and then act on it ranks very high.
1.) Open yourself to the possibility of creating something
Something a bit different than you have done in the past; or to go deeper. Acknowledge your desire to do so. Put the intention out there. Read things like the book 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain' by Betty Edwards - it's a classic on the inner workings of the creative process.
2.) Figure out what you love to photograph
It doesn't have to be forever, but what interests you right now? Is it people, bugs, mountains, or cats? What are you drawn to photograph? Some people say 'everything' - it's worth the effort to reduce that huge list down to a few things. Many aren't sure. That’s okay - just look at earlier photographs you've made or images by others that you like. Is there something that keeps showing up? Ask someone who knows you. Ask an expert to help you see the hidden themes and threads woven through your photographs – this is what my pathfinder sessions are for.
Some people find writing helps to bring out ideas. You are in the exploratory phase – there is no such thing as a mistake. Start planning, organising, researching, and inspiring yourself. Try looking at images you see in magazines or onlineon sites like 500px. You may say 'I'm drawn to Bali' - then put off working on your idea right now because you have neither time nor money to get to Bali. Remember, you are trying to find something you can work on now, not when you have the right equipment, the planets are in alignment etc. etc. To do that, ask what it is about Bali that draws you. Is it the ocean, the lifestyle, or is it the creative spirit that flourishes there. Is it the fact it is far from your daily grind? Whatever it is try to find those qualities in subjects near to you now so you can start working right away. Start planning, organising, researching, and inspiring yourself with examples of photos you love. Find and study the masters. Some people find movies to be a wellspring of ideas for their still photography – allow yourself to be moved.
3.) Immerse yourself in your subject
If you are truly called to go to half way around the world to create, then make a plan and get going on it. In the meantime find something close to home that you can work on. Keep using your camera all the time so that, in this instance, you aren’t rusty when you get to Bali. Keep the juices flowing; research books, online resources etc and immerse yourself in your subject. Research possible locations, events, people or landmarks that are a must for you to work on. If traveling, why not try to be more than a tourist? Volunteering to help in your host country deepens the experience and your pictures….all of a sudden, doors open. “At first you carry the idea, then the idea carries you…” Give yourself permission to start and to make whatever it is you’d like to create. Give yourself the green light. Commit to action and keeping moving ahead so you gain momentum. At first you carry the idea, then the idea carries you. If you have to start by making straight imitations of images that inspire you, just do it with passion – don’t worry no one does anything completely original. Just keep making pictures without being too critical of them – do your best. At first, only share the resulting images with people who encourage you to make more photos. No ‘helpful critics’.
4.) Display and share your photos
Finally, enjoy the images you've made, print the images, hang them on your walls, make a Blurb or iBook, then share them online with whoever you wish. Now that you are finished go ahead and evaluate the work. Interestingly enough, at this point you may be flooded with many fresh ideas and inspirations – write then down and act on the one’s that feel right to you.
Wednesday, 18 April 2018
|Cast Iron Confessional, Paris|
by Eugene Atget
one of the photographers talked about in 'Behind The Camera'
This book by Paul Lowe is a well written, very ambitious project that involves looking at the work of 100 photographers across several genres and periods throughout the history of photography.
Lowe shows examples of their work to highlight the technical and aesthetic approaches each photographer uses in their creative process. Lowe covers a lot of ground here. His insights and observations into working methods and approaches of each photographer offer valuable teaching moments and demonstrate the real depth of understanding he has of his subjects.
From looking at the work of the great Nadar to Richard Misrach and Laura Pannack, Paul Lowe has produced a useful reference tool that will inform and inspire students of photography at any level.
Sunday, 8 April 2018
author of ‘The Career Guide
for Creative and Unconventional People’
"I don't think that art comes from art. A lot of artists apparently think so. I think it comes from the awakening person. Awakening is what you might call the spiritual. It is a linkage to something flowing very rapidly through the air, and I can put my finger on it and plug in, so to speak. Do artists need a spiritual way or do they need art? You can say one is the same as the other. Everything tends toward awakening, and I would rather use the word awakening than a word derived from some system - because there are many systems."
quote from Adamu Noguchi
|From the HORIZONS portfolio|
©Michael G. O'Brien
These images of Lake Ontario grew out of the ongoing work that I have done for an Indigenous organization here in Canada. During the time I have spent with this group, I have been fortunate to hear teachings that resonated with me while simultaneously revealing to me a worldview quite different from my own. This worldview was one centered on the primacy of relationships and connections.
The teachings have given me a roadmap that has helped me find a way back to, a return to, the ancient memories of what it meant for me to be a human in relationship with a creation more vast then anything that I could imagine.
In light of this new perspective, making this series of photographs became a process of return - of returning repeatedly to the same place by the Lake so that I could experience deeper levels of meaning, of relationship, of observing the light, water, clouds and the earth that make up the visual and spiritual aspects of the environment.
The Lake took on a new meaning to me, as I now wanted to explore the spiritual essence of the place rather than construct an abstract 'narrative'. It became important for me to work in one place close to home and to sink roots as deeply as possible while immersing my heart and soul into the process. I became-fully engaged. My commitment to showing the subtle and sometimes dramatic changes of the lake organically became a reflection and symbol of my shifting worldview. I want to share with viewers the sensations of seeing nature without, concepts or filters; letting her speak and providing an opportunity for us to connect directly with what is. The series is ongoing.
Saturday, 5 August 2017
©Michael G. O'Brien 2017
answer - photographer
answer - that depends
Wednesday, 29 March 2017
The “One Planet: Harnessing Hope” project contains an exhibit, a thirteen minute stand alone video and a three minute trailer video about the exhibit, all regarding what some multicultural and multi-faith individuals and organizations are doing to help the environmental situation we are all experiencing.
I partnered with the “Faith and the Common Good Greening Sacred Spaces program” in this endeavour. The entire project is educational, inspirational and hopeful providing what many diverse groups are doing in a difficult time.
There will be an exhibit at the Toronto City Hall Rotunda, date TBA with a large launch attended by people that reflect the diversity of Toronto and there will be dignitaries and politicians in attendance. The exhibit is being proposed to be hung at “The Parliament of World Religions” in Toronto, 2018 and there will be around 10,000 people of all faiths there.
Irene Borins Ash
Thursday, 9 February 2017
Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, B.C.
To feel the power of dedication, try this exercise the next time you're a bit stuck or bored with your photography (or anything else) and want to go deeper. Before going out, take a minute to hold your camera and start thinking about to whom or what you might like to dedicate your photos. It can be a friend, a mentor, a hero, a value, or an idea such as 'freedom' or 'joy....it can be your pet.
Set the intention to dedicate to them the photos from that day, week or month. The results are not always immediate; however, if you stay with this practice for awhile you may be led to make some of your deepest, most heart-felt work.
Friday, 13 January 2017
|Click here to read article|
To my friend Maria Vamvalis - thanks for posting this article about gratitude and the value of true mentorship. Albert Camus was a hero of mine during high school.....I read everything of his that I could get my hands on. Please follow the link for it contains the letter Camus wrote to his childhood mentor and read while accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature. The compelling letter, and feeling behind it, show why Camus was a guiding light to many, during and after WW2. It also shows why he won the Nobel Prize.
Like so many others, I could relate to Camus' story -as a child my father was absent and I also had a mentor/teacher (he was our next door neighbour) that shone a light into the dark parts of my childhood, thereby saving me - his name is George Bays Wilson. I am forever grateful to him for taking me under his wing; grateful for his adventurous, generous spirit and for sharing with me his love of nature. But more than anything I thank George, for believing in me and for showing me what a real man looks like.
Thursday, 29 December 2016
"Put the intention out there"
2.) Next identify what you’re are attracted to. It doesn't have to be forever....what interests you right now? Is it people, bugs, mountains, or cats? What are you drawn to photograph? Some people say 'everything' and while that's possible it's not helpful to the cause. Many aren't sure. That’s ok - just look at earlier photographs you've made or images by others that you like. Is there something that keeps showing up? Ask someone who knows you. Look for the hidden themes in your work – some people find writing about them helps. You are in the exploratory phase – there is no such thing as a mistake.
©Michael G. O'Brien 2014