Both my conceptual work and environmental portraiture involve costume and props. International fabrics of silk and chiffon, fans, high heels and headdresses filled my childhood dress up box, and shaped my future as a costume stylist in film. The language of costume, part functional, part personal – feature in my work as an Art Photographer.
My process is methodical and well communicated. I love the look of imagery made on large format cameras, and prefer to photograph people with a degree of fluidity. Shooting on a Hasselblad Medium Format Film camera allows me to be mobile, keeping the lighting and camera positioning simple to focus on direction. I try not to leave too much to chance but I accept chaos as part of the process, such as a random dog licking the spilt pig’s blood in the Skateface series.
The Photofable and Disturbious series exhibit degrees of controlled performance. Photo sequencing techniques of Duane Michals heavily influenced my style. Collections of anonymous Halloween photographs, African art photography, fantasy imagery by Francesca Woodman and Rodger Ballen. Whilst filming an alter ego, costumed and on location, subjects morph in performance, as seen in Disturbious, which was made in a dirty abandoned psychiatric hospital filled with props. I am interested in simple juxtaposition of surface textures, fabrics and backgrounds, light and shadow, emotion rather than detachment.
The camera lens is a portal into my imagination – my happiest place. I like to snoop around with acknowledgement – like backstage at the rodeo. Practising photography is where I give myself permission to exit daily expectation and find myself again in play.
Philippa O’Brien 2018.
Philippa O’Brien (b.1970 Queenstown, New Zealand) uses medium format film cameras, preferring a slower photographic process. Her style ranges from conceptual documentary photography, (Skateface, Misfortune Inferno) to art photography (Photofables).
Growing up in the playground of farm life, O’Brien was educated in Dunedin, completing a B.CAp.Sci (Hons) in Clothing and joined the New Zealand film industry as a Costumier in 1992. O’Brien completed several Santé Fe Photographic workshops in New Mexico in 2010 followed by a Diploma in Photography School of Fine Arts, with Distinction, from Massey University in 2013.
After returning to Central Otago in 2015, O’Brien has been completing a publication of Skateface, whilst continuing ongoing projects, Rodeo and Disturbious.
2014 Photofables, Photospace Gallery, Wellington, NZ.
2015 Photofables, The Front Room Gallery, Queenstown, NZ.
2016 dannylemon.com, The Sherwood, Queenstown, NZ.
2012 Skateface, Exposure, Massey University Graduate Exhibition, Wellington, NZ.
2016 Disturbious, W.A.N.K Group Show, The Front Room Gallery, Queenstown, NZ.
Finalist 2011, 2013, 2015 Arts Awards, Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery, Alexandra, NZ.
1992 B.CAp.Sci (Hons) Bachelor of Consumer and Applied Sciences with Honours in Clothing, University of Otago, NZ.
2013 Diploma in Photography with Distinction, Massey University Fine Arts School Wellington, NZ.
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