photographer interview: brit o’brien

Written by Tori O'Campo

October is national photographer appreciation month, and as a music publication, we think it is important to shed light on some of the photographers who are able to flawlessly capture some of our most magical concert moments.

Originating from Northern California, Brittany O’Brien is a touring concert photographer that has gained a fanbase of her own. She has toured with a variety of artists, such as Imagine Dragons, Hippo Campus, Fitz and The Tantrums, Young the Giant, K. Flay, Finish Ticket, and more. We had the opportunity to interview O’Brien about photography, touring, and inspiration.

What made you originally want to pick up a camera and start doing photography?

Not sure where the drive came from — but I definitely loved taking photos from an early age. I was always documenting my friends, always had a point and shoot in my pocket. Didn’t have much social media in High School – so I wasn’t doing it for any purpose other than capturing the moments we were living.

What was your first paid gig? What did you learn from it?
I was paid by a high school friend to take photos of her six month old baby. For the first time I felt confident pursuing a career in photography and learned that it was okay to feel that way.

Who was the first artist that you shot for?
Finish Ticket! They got me into the industry and gave me legs to stand on.

Do you prefer digital or film photography? Or are they even comparable in your mind?

They mean such different things to me. Film feels more free –I can create what I want…how I want. Digital equals work in my mind – so it feels more restricting. I never pick up my digital camera when I’m not working- but I’ll always carry around some film.

Do you have any photography role models?
When I first started shooting I had two major music photography role models. I e-mailed them both, messaged them on social media and let them know that I really looked up to them. Neither one ever got back to me and it sort of crushed me in the beginning. So now I aim to respond to those that reach out to me…hoping people don’t have to feel like I did when I was first feeling inspired by another artist.

If you could shoot for any specific show or artist in history, which show/artist would you chose?

Wow, this is a tough question!! There are a million different ways I could answer this.
But honestly – getting to shoot Radiohead or The Strokes or Muse — any really rad rock band in the early 00’s would have been an absolute dream.

What are essentials you bring with you for touring life?

This is a great question because I’m packing for tour right now. Hopefully this will help me to prevent leaving something behind.
My main things (besides gear!) are my blue tour blanket, TUMS(!), black boots and my favorite jean jacket. I can survive any tour with those four items.

Among the equipment that you own, is there anything you do not use or regret spending money on?

I actually have a ton of gear that I’ve acquired from friends parents’, garage sales, antique stores, B&H discount days.. that I don’t use! I like to try out new things but always find myself reverting back to what I know and like. My biggest regret of a purchase was actually buying an 85mm lens. I know that is a weird regret – but I bought because I assumed that was just the “next step” in being a photographer… but after shooting a few shows with it I was like “Why did I buy this? Shooting this close up has never been my style.”

What is your dream camera?

To be honest, I don’t really have a dream camera! The body has never really mattered that much to me, It’s all about what you do with your lenses in my opinion. I have countless dream lenses — pretty much every lens that Sigma has ever made.

How important are your relationships with the artists you shoot for?

SO IMPORTANT! They are everything to me! I work so closely with the artists I shoot for that I don’t feel like my work properly represents me and what I am capable of until I spend a few days getting to know the band/artist I’m working with. Once I learn quirks, stage movement patterns, personality traits- then I can really get to work. If I don’t build any relationship – then I feel like my work is “empty”

What is something that no one knows about you?

I’m a pretty open person so I don’t know if there is something no one knows about me.  But something a lot of people don’t know about me is that I absolutely hate kiwi and jalapeno.

How would you describe your own personal music taste?

My music taste has broadened widely over the last few years. I listen to everything a little bit.  BUT I would say I really find myself in the “indie rock meets spacey synth” world.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up? We saw on your social media pages that you are working on your first photo book, “Nobody’s Guide To Life On The Road,” and would love to know more about that process.

I have quite a few projects coming up! Besides tour, I have my photo book and a new blog in the works.  “Nobody’s Guide” is a passion project I’ve been writing notes about and conjuring up for the last two years. It’s a messy representation of what life on the road has been like for me + my camera. I talk about everything from overnight drives in the van to breaking down in a bus in the Canadian wilderness. It’s something I’ve been dreaming about creating since the very first day I was on the road in 2015.

Do you have any future shows or tours planned?

Yes! I leave for tour with Hippo Campus on Thursday. You can see all the dates here:  http://hippocampus.band/

Any last comments you would like us to include?

Thank you so much for thinking of me! Always honored to know people out there like what I am doing. If you want to see what I’m up to my site is here: https://www.brittanyobrien.com/

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