Behind the Lens: Interview with Brittany O'Brien
BY BLENDED STAFF
Blended’s Brooke Bell sat down with three female concert photographers to discuss their artistic journeys thus far and goals for the future.
Each photographer is at a different point in their journey, having worked at various levels within live music photography. As women, Sophia Ragomo, Paige Sara, and Brittany O’Brien have all faced challenges that come with succeeding in a male-dominated industry, such as going on tour. Read below to learn about 26-year-old Brittany O’Brien and the close relationships she has built as a tour photographer.
Where did your interest in photography start?
My interest in photography started in high school. I was head of senior awards for yearbook and loved the idea of crafting photos featuring people and their quirks. I was always invested in the arts throughout high school and wanted to find a way to make it into a career without having to go to college.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Honestly, so hard to pick one thing! I think my favorite part of the job is the rewarding feeling I get when I take a photo and know it’s going to be “the one.” The photo that the band and crew talks about and can look back at to remember that tour and that moment in time.
What equipment do you bring to shoot at shows?
I shoot Nikon with Sigma lenses. I don’t use much gear to be honest. I should with a d750 body (generally) and two prime Sigma lenses. A wide and a 35mm. Sometimes I’ll use a monopod or a prism.
How do you post process?
I use Lightroom for everything. When I was first interning as a photographer, I was told to always trust Lightroom. Learned it in and out and have stuck with it since. I am not a heavy editor. I rely mostly on what I shot in camera and then play with color a little in post.
What was your favorite tour experience and why?
Man, this is always such a hard question for me! So many different things I could put here as an answer. I think a new favorite tour experience was getting matching tattoos with Hippo Campus. We’ve all done a lot of touring together and had some amazing experiences and solidifying that with ink felt pretty cool.
Who influences you creatively?
Many many musicians. Josh Homme is a big one for me. His aesthetic musically influences me through the lens. Does that make sense? Also Robert Yeoman & Wes Anderson, Warren Fu, Annie Leibovitz.
Who is your dream artist to work with?
Working with Arctic Monkeys would be a dream. A favorite band since I was in high school – it would fulfill an old goal. Also the aesthetic of their shows would be something magical to capture.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a photographer?
I would be studying meteorology! Seriously, I thought for the longest time I was going to be a storm chaser. Little part of me still longs for it.
Do you feel any setbacks in this job or whole industry as a woman?
Rarely. I have been privileged to work around people who do nothing but raise me up... treat me as equal. There are moments when house venue staff have treated me as lesser (basically by going to my tour manager or anyone else on the crew to have a question answered that I have already answered for them). There were times when I was helping build lights on a Fitz and The Tantrums tour that house venue staff refused to take direction from me. Very minor setbacks, though, in an otherwise very positive work environment.
Are there any challenges on tour as a woman? What are they?
Yes, for sure. A big one is not having the same freedoms as men. I can’t walk around the bus in a bra or change openly like everyone else can. You also lose your sense of femininity in a way – kind of become one of the guys. Which I have always loved, but at times I step back and think “who am I again?”
What is your advice for future concert photographers?
Go for it! It’s a lot of work and you can’t expect to be handed opportunity. You have to grind through shows, sweat and e-mails to break into the industry outside of casual shooting. It’s worth it if it’s your true calling but remember: “it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll…”
Though O’Brien isn’t chasing storms like she originally planned, she is constantly on tour doing what she loves most. Right now, O’Brien is on tour with indie rock band, Hippo Campus. You can find her live photography and breathtaking portraits on her site. Be sure to check out her store as well!
Lead Image Credit and All Photos: Brittany O’Brien