Blue Crawfish by Niall O'Brien
Reading time: about 6 minutes
About this series
Niall O’Brien’s lens distorts the lines between non-fiction and fiction. His images are crafted with a raw intention, capturing the decisive moment when the truth of a story is illuminated. These moments are woven into the larger arc of the human story that is often overlooked.
In the series Blue Crawfish he came to St. Martinsville parish, Louisiana looking for ‛Gothic America’, making portraits of people at moments of deep tragedy and familial connection–in Louisiana he found darkness, beauty and a strange isolation. An underbelly of the American dream. The images are an amalgam of moments showing the world as equally dark and decaying, as it is beautiful.
First and foremost, can you talk a bit about your background as photographer?
I was born in Dublin, Ireland. I began taking photographs in the late 90s with my friends skateboarding and hanging around. I began to get the odd skate picture published and decided to put my parents at ease and apply for a degree. It wasn’t easy to get in as I had been kicked out of school and for photography you needed high academic points to get in. I managed to squeeze in with just a portfolio to what I considered the best college in Ireland, DLIADT.
What is this collection about? How much preparation did you put into making this series?
Blue Crawfish is basically a response to my need to experience ‛Gothic America’. It became something I didn’t really expect with a deeper meaning but that is buried deep. Allot of my work is about my experience and my take home, the pictures become a subjective idea of what I saw and who I met. It’s never a direct comment on a situation, social or political, although all that stuff drives the project forward and becomes part the work even if it’s not intentional. This, to me, is a portrait of two towns going through some ‘shit’.
What are one or several challenges you faced when creating these works?
The usual, Financial difficulties as its all self-funded. Also, the anxiety that you haven’t created enough, the feeling that you shouldn’t be the one taking these pictures, the need to be true to the subject matter but at the same time not making the people you meet along the way look anything other than who they really are. There is an awful habit in documentary photography to travel the country and focus on the weird and only show sensational pictures, I find this is a false representation and an easy way out. USA is a wild place for sure but when you only focus on that you tell a very isolated truth. I’ve always been drawn to a real sense of place, and welcome the sensational moments as an ebb to the story you are telling, not the only story you tell.
How do you come up with an idea and what is your working method?
I never look for an idea, it often comes to me through reading or watching films even buried deep in the back of the brain from something I saw forever ago. I’ve have a million ideas in my head all the time and the one that gets the most traction by the time I can afford to make something happens. It might be a serendipitous event that make one project happen quicker than another. Once I’ve committed it’s all systems go. I usually throw myself into it with the blinkers on, be it a person, place or thing and hope for the best. There’s something nice about letting the idea evolve during the process.
Can you talk about what brought you into the world of NFTs?
I guess like so many people a curiosity and an open mind to trying something new. I have always pushed back on things like crypto etc., and regretted it but I decided that NFT’s were simply another way to show the work, collaborate with other photographers and hopefully help younger, newer artists discover good work. I couldn’t see anything wrong with that.
Can you tell more about your art of photography? How has it changed over time?
I’m not too sure if it has changed, at least since when I discovered what it was I was trying to achieve. I try to experiment technically a little bit, but to be honest, it took me so many years to feel comfortable and confident in my way of doing things that I’m not too interested in changing too much. Of course, the subject matter always changes, and I don’t think the work is repetitive so that keeps me engaged and content. I feel excited and nervous for each new project I absorb and so long as that doesn’t get boring, I’m happy out.
What do you do besides photography?
I direct for film. Over the past 13 years or so it has been a big part of what I do.
What are you working on now?
Oh god… Lots of different things, commercial and personal. One is a massive project I’ve been working on for 8 years solid that’s coming to an end. It’s taken in an army town in East Hampshire, UK going through a massive redevelopment. It was an incredible commission and now it’s nearly over there is a book to publish, a couple of exhibitions and some other exciting things attached to it. I’m also writing a couple of film projects that are all in a state of ‘who knows’ but as I was always told, ‘Keep your pockets full’.
Photographer and director Niall O’Brien was born in Dublin, Ireland. He studied photography at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design, and Technology.
O’Brien’s photography has been shown in solo exhibitions in Dublin, London, New York, Zurich, Berlin, and many more group exhibitions across the globe. He has directed TV commercials and photographed campaigns for brands such as Canon, Nike, Adidas, San Miguel, Simone Rocha, McQ, and Fred Perry. He has also written and directed Music videos for clients such as BMG, Universal Music, Polydor, and Interscope Records, to name a few.
Photographer: Niall O'Brien
Foundation: Blue Crawfish
Photos copyright Niall O'Brien
DRAWLIGHTS | 1/1 – one post/one photographer, weekly. Off-chain and on-chain. By Peter Nitsch, lens-based artist, a member of Jenny Metaverse and lifetime Member of the Royal Photographic Society of Thailand.