Brittany O’ Brien: the Queen of Candids

by Alexandra Hall

“I just don’t want to forget. I’m an anxious person– if I die, at least I have all of these memories documented,” O’ Brien said. 

As “millennials” and “Gen X/Z/What letter are we even on?” are attacked for their vicious desire to document every living moment from breakfast to skincare routines, the art of photography has no doubt been watered down to VSCO filters and Instagram feeds. It has never been easier and simultaneously so difficult to pursue the passion of taking photos.

On one hand, there are endless resources in the forms of apps, software, and equipment that evolves every second. There are Youtube videos instructing how to get the perfect shot, Lightroom demos on websites like Skillshare, and experts who candidly speak about their success in various industries. On the other hand, with everything so easily discoverable and distributed, it is harder to see true talent, or as Brit O’ Brien describes it “having an actual eye.”

Brittany O’ Brien, more commonly known as ‘Brit,’ went from photographing her classmates wearing Santa hats in seventh grade to touring with some of the biggest names in the alternative scene in less than a decade. After graduating high school, she began showing up at venues in San Francisco armed with nothing but a camera. Brit was swept up in the perfect storm of the up-and-coming…but-no-really-up-and-coming band Finish Ticket, and she was launched into the scene that most people only can channel through playlists. 

Call it fate, call it destiny, O’ Brien didn’t just land a lucky spot in the music scene. Her photography is more than just a contrast adjustment and a filter with a purple tint. O’ Brien’s photographs hold the true spirit of the subjects featured. They catch the artists in their most vulnerable times: studio sessions, hometowns, touring hotspots, and mid-chorus at a packed venue. 

There is a certain warm nostalgia captured in her images, one that feels like the concert moments themselves. The anticipation before the chorus rings. The eruption of that one hook everyone loves. The last bursts of energy before the set is over. 

Her images gleam with  a certain adoration for her subjects, something that reflects not only the artists on stage but also the artist behind the camera. 

“When I first started working with Hippo Campus, I had to find a mix in being a fan of their music to having a professional relationship. But over time, the fan side of me turned into a friendship,” O’ Brien detailed.

This perspective is what makes O’ Brien’s work so alluring. She is the communicator between the fans and the artists. She is both one of the fans and one of the people on stage. 

O’Brien’s unique perspective fueled her first photography and tour book, Nobody’s Guide to Life on the Road, an 88-page account of her touring journeys with artists like Fitz and the Tantrums, K. Flay, Hippo Campus, and Finish Ticket. 

“I didn’t do it for anyone else. I kept these notes about what I was seeing and feeling and compiled them into a sort of… memory book,” O’ Brien explained. 

Nobody’s Guide to Life on the Road is a culmination of not only photographs and accounts, but also a showcase of O’ Brien’s mastery of creating lifetimes that stretch beyond a number of pixels. Her touch makes audiences nostalgic for experiences they didn’t undergo personally. 

O’ Brien’s heart reaches even farther than what viewers see in her photography. When Nobody’s Guide to Life on the Road was released, O’ Brien held a release show in which tickets were free but donations towards relief from the California fires were encouraged. Instead of profiting off of ticket sales, O’ Brien donated her proceeds. Every few weeks, O’ Brien holds question-and-answer polls on her social media to answer any photography and life on the road questions her followers might have. Currently, O’ Brien is selling film shots with personalized letters on the back to connect with her audience during the COVID-19 pandemic that has everyone isolated to some degree. It seems that fans are reminded daily of the spirit behind the camera that captures the moments so universally adored. 

It is easy to take a decent picture, especially when cell phone cameras have only become better and better over the years. It is easy to download apps and mess with a few components of light and color arbitrarily. It is easy to claim you are a photographer nowadays. 

But to be an artist is entirely different. Although the pools of band photographers seem to widen with every tour and budding generation, the truly talented artists will always shine. Brit O’ Brien has done more than make a name for herself in the music scene. She has managed to match the artists she shoots with as much vigor, talent, and passion. O’ Brien’s photography will continue to evolve and grow with each picture snapped, reminding us all what it truly means to capture the candid moments of life. 

So perhaps older generations are right. We are afraid of losing the moments we cherish the most. But no need to worry, it is artists like Brit O’ Brien that will make sure our most beloved creators are remembered in the light we all experienced them in. Warm, personal, and true. 

Until next time,

Rocka Out

Find O’ Brien’s photography, social media, and book here:

One Comment

  1. Markus Eymann

    Great article, no question, Brit’s brilliant. I especially love how she pays attention to the background and makes it almost a character in the photo, but she does this without diminishing, in fact enhancing, the human subject of the photo. She really notices texture (an unfinished wooden beam, wet pavement, a worn sofa, unusual tiling) and uses them to pull us into the her pictures.

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