Seen & Heard

The Other Side of John O'Brien

John O’Brien, the head of our Detroit office, has a viral smile. We discovered he also has a discriminating eye: This past weekend he announced he was heading out to the prestigious and madly popular Grand Rapids ArtPrize, where two of his photographs would be on display.

Turns out John has been a photographer since practically forever—as are his father and one of his brothers. At home, John’s library is brimming with photoessays as well as books on technique. In the world, John finds himself drawn increasingly to landscapes, despite acknowledging his two daughters as his main muses.

John’s large format work is thoughtful and meticulous. It speaks to craft as much as aesthetics. He’s deeply interested in “the photography workflow” (Why are we not surprised?) and in the expressive possibilities of high dynamic-range imaging (HDR), a technique designed to bring out the real world’s full range of intensity. He loves keeping track of a shot’s settings and other specifics. “Digital photography is such a wonderful learning tool,” he notes.

Of late, John’s been thinking more about the landscape of Detroit. “Detroit is a city with no shortage of great photographers,” he says, “But, then, it is unusually rich in subject matter. After work, I’ll be grabbing my camera and getting around town.”

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