Tuesday, 1 December 2020


Over the last few years there's been considerable interest in my black and white images, especially the portraits. I made the move from film to digital equipment in 2003 and didn't shoot any film for about five years after that. However some clients who saw my black and white portfolio began asking if I would use film again and print the results for them in the traditional 'analog' way i.e. in the darkroom. This came as a surprise, nevertheless I got out my Hasselblad medium format camera and now use it regularly. For print making I have found an awesome darkroom space to use at Gallery 44: Centre for Contemporary Photography. Whenever possible I make my black and white prints by hand, in the darkroom, on fibre based paper and process for archival quality. Now, when making b/w photos of people, I use both digital and film platforms, sometimes during the same session. Some photographers aren't comfortable shooting digital and film in the same session. This is understandable since each type of camera is a different type of tool that requires a different approach. Switching from one to the other can break the flow of the shoot. Dividing the portrait session into 'digital' and 'film' segments helps me make that transition smoothly. 
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. 

After the rapport is established, at some point, I switch to my Hasselblad 500C camera with a film back (usually on a tripod). I like the 150mm and 80mm Zeiss lenses. For black and white I use two films, Kodak 320 TXP and Kodak 100 TMX; these give me the feel I like in my portraits. Dividing the session like this gives me the space necessary to slip into 'medium format film mode'.

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