During this time, the artist has seen the group begin to grow from adolescents to young men, following them on their adventures from Brighton to Berlin and documenting their exploits. O’Brien has created a series of photographs so strikingly beautiful that, at first glance, they might belie their raw, uninhibited and primal content. Gradually earning the trust of the group, who to others may seem entirely impenetrable, has enabled him to gain access to some particularly personal and poignant moments in the lives of his subjects. O’Brien captures these with an honesty and respect that makes these images and episodes all the more visceral and affecting. ‘There’s something beautiful about capturing the spontaneity of youth. It’s something everyone can relate to on some level, even if they can’t immediately identify with this mad group of punks.’ he says.
This trust not only comes with a responsibility to be truthful to the kids’ identities, but also towards the work - imposing on the artist a constant battle between his ability to build and sustain his relationship with his subjects and his duty to not influence the way they behave. ‘Basically my only rule is never to interfere.’ says O’Brien of the need to maintain this balance, ‘That can make it hard though, to balance the fact that I want the guys to trust me but I don’t want to do anything that would affect what comes naturally. There can be blood spurting out of someone’s hand, police bowling in or all kinds of sketchiness, but I can never step in. That distance is important and I hope that comes across in the work’. The resulting photographs succeed in drawing the viewer into the lives of the characters within them, but never really let one get past the point of voyeurism.
O’Brien’s talent and commitment to his subject is already recognised by his peers, with a number of awards including the Irish Professional Photographers’ Association Rex Roberts Medal. ‘Good Rats’ at Art Work Space is sure to see this recognition grow - giving the public an opportunity to enter the world of these young punks and a chance to catch the work of one of the Art World’s brightest emerging talents.
Niall O’Brien studied fine art photography in the renowned Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.He has exhibited at a number of Irish and English shows and has many awards to his name, including the Irish Professional Photographers’ Association Rex Roberts Medal and two main categories in the ICI Photographer of the Year Award. In October 2008 Niall was accepted into the top 20 portfolios in the International Portfolio Review, Bratislava. He continues to exhibit throughout Europe.
His commissioned work is of a gritty, contemporary style, which seamlessly blurs the boundaries between the conceptual and the aesthetic. His growing collection of intimate portraits concentrates on unusual subjects with whom Niall develops a close working relationship. Niall's long-term project “Superheroes” came from a film, which he made in 2006 and has been on ongoing photo documentary about adolescence and desire. Born in Dublin in 1979, Niall now lives in London. His fresh and innovative photographs and films work continues to draw both attention and acclaim.
© Art Work Space 2011