bob o'connor

Breiðdalsvík, Iceland by Bob O'Connor 
8"x10" ($20) | 11"x14" ($50) | 16"x20" ($200) | 30"x40" ($2000)

Welcome back after the long weekend, collectors! It’s Sara, with a much-awaited second edition from Bob O'Connor. The sequel to the sold-out Laugarás, IcelandBreiðdalsvík, Iceland is as stunning.

When Jen introduced Laugarás, she wrote: It’s peaceful and epic at the same time. The color palette of the sky, the grass and the windblown horse are subtle and soft, and their beauty is enhanced by the richness of the muddy earth in the foreground… It’s one of those pictures that makes me want to tell a million stories…

Breiðdalsvík, Iceland, too, inspires tales of adventure, of travels past and future. The promise of impossibly fresh air, infinite horizons, dewy, flower-flecked grass and endless expanses of green all spark wanderlust. Like the lone horse in Laugarás, Iceland, the slide in Breiðdalsvík inhabits a surreal landscape, made all the more unbelievable by the presence of the slide itself—seemingly randomly settled in the middle of nowhere, it invites anyone and everyone who happens upon this place to play. As we return to the day-to-day, Breiðdalsvík enables inescapable daydreaming—the surest sign of the unofficial start of summer.

JONATHAN CHERRY: What did you have for breakfast this morning?

BOB O'CONNOR: Yogurt and tea. It’s the same thing I’ve had every day for breakfast for the past 17 or 18 years. I don’t see my routine changing any time soon.

JC: What was the last photography book you picked up?

BO: Olaf Otto Becker: Above Zero. Greenland looks beautiful. I hope I get to visit before all its ice melts.

JC: What is your current project all about?

BO: I’m not working on any specific projects right now, just my ongoing explorations into the built environment and how we interact with it.

JC: What has 2011 got in store for you?

BO: Nothing is scheduled yet, but hopefully I will get to take a trip somewhere new to make some work. I need to see something that looks different than the east coast of the USA (which I haven’t left in a long time). This winter has been especially brutal. Any place warm and sunny would do right now. I’m also starting to shoot a bit of still life (instead of the large scale spaces I normally photograph) but that’s still in the early stages of the game.

JC: What initially drew you to photography?

BO: I went to school for architecture, but was terrible at the physics side of it. it’s the only class I’ve ever failed. I was still interested in the built environment though so I turned to photographing it.

JC: What do you think the future of photography looks like?

BO: It’s all changing so fast. who knows what the future will look like? There was a time in the recent past when polaroid made instant slide film (how crazy is that?!) now they don’t exist at all. I hope film (and the labs necessary to process it) can stick around a while longer. I’d like to see it make a come back in the commercial world, but I doubt it’ll happen. It’s becoming more and more a niche type of thing. I haven’t shot a job on film in over a year. I miss the process a lot. I don’t ever see myself feeling sentimental about digital cameras or spending time in front of a computer, but I love my view camera and peeling apart a polaroid will always be exciting.

JC: Any emerging artists inspiring you lately?

BO: nobody specific, but there’s always great work on the humble arts site.

JC: Any words of wisdom to recent photography graduates?

BO: Find a mentor out in the real world doing what you have aspirations to do. There’s a huge disconnect between what you learned in school and what you need to know to survive in the real world. the technical side of photography is easy. It’s the making a living at it part that is hard.

Bob O'Connor is 32 and prefers clouds to sun.

MOSSLESS: Those are some hella nice houses you’ve photographed. Did you always know you were going to be shooting interiors at some point?
BOB O'CONNOR: I never really planned on it, but looking back on things, it was somewhat inevitable. I went to school for architecture and that’s definitely shaped the way I see things. I’d like to be shooting more institutional/industrial interiors (the sort of authorless architecture that people spend a lot of time working/shopping/living in, but don’t really think much about), but I’ve got bills to pay and that sort of stuff isn’t that commercially viable, so fancy houses it is.

ML: Speaking of Hella, how was Iceland?
BO: Iceland was incredible. I can’t say enough good things about it. The landscape varies from rocks/grass/glaciers/waterfalls/hot springs without too much traveling. You can see them all in an hour’s drive. The light is always changing and it’s light out 24 hours a day in the summer. There are horses and sheep wandering everywhere. Everyone should go there at least once. It’s magical.

ML: How different is shooting interiors to shooting landscapes? Are there similarities?
BO: I’m always trying to convey some sense of space/scale in my photographs. So in that sense I treat them similarly, but interiors (residential ones especially) are often as much about the stuff they’ve used to decorate the home and the styling than they are the actual space. I think my color palette carries over between the two genres.

How do you deal with clients? How much preparation do you go through before meeting them?
BO: I try to do as much research as I can. I’m interested in things like who they’ve hired in the past, past budgets, are they jerks to work for, etc. Once a project is assigned I tend to ask a lot of questions. Nobody likes surprises (me or the client) so I want to make sure everybody is on the same page regarding expectations from the start. As the economy has gotten worse clients are less willing to take risks. You pretty much already need to have shot the same thing they need before they’ll hire you. It’s unfortunate. There were some interesting collaborations in the past with a photographer from one genre photographing something outside of that genre - like using a people photographer to photograph architecture, just to have a completely different point of view on things. That doesn’t happen so much anymore. Now there’s a lot of safe/boring work out there that all looks the same. Hopefully clients will start taking chances in favor of more interesting work when/if the economy ever recovers.