Brendan O Se: Travels with my Camera by Andy B.
I first came across the work of Brendan O Se last year thanks to Mark T Simmons. Brendan is an award winning photographer from Cork in Ireland. He is a master in the use of motion and blur with his photographic portfolio incorporating a unique blend of abstract art and street photography, shot either with his trusty iPhone or his DSLR
Looking at his iPhone work it is not surprising his portfolio has caught the attention of so many people especially when you look at such images like ‘Sitting on a train’ or ‘A diet of Blur’.
I caught up with Brendan during a trip he is currently taking across East Asia which he is documenting through a series of street photography images. I wanted to dig a bit deeper to find out more about his work, approach and his travels through Asia.
AB: Andy Butler
BOS: Brendan O Se
AB: Firstly, tell us bit about yourself and your introduction to mobile photography
BOS: Firstly, thanks for this opportunity Andy. To give you some background, I am a university teacher from Cork, Ireland. I am married with two small children. My main hobby is photography. A trip to Asia in 2012 was the first time I realized the potential of the iPhone as a camera. It was a liberating experience being able to get up close to capture street moments and also being able to process and share with friends and family immediately was incredible. I took hundreds of images on that trip and began to post regularly on Instagram. When I returned to Ireland and back to posting on Flickr I discovered there were many mobile photography groups and the quality and diversity of the images inspired me to experiment and explore more
I am believer in the old saying that the best camera you have is the one you have with you, and the iPhone is always with me; always ready. In the past two years, I have taken many more photos with the iPhone than my DSLR. I believe that while the genre at the moment is still called mobile photography, the mobile part will, in time, be dropped. After all, when has a camera not been mobile?
AB: Your portfolio is a mixture of abstract art and street photography. How would you describe this style and approach to mobile photography
BOS: Street photography is what interests me most. The photographers whose work excite me most all do street work. The story that evolves from a street image can be powerful. It can cast us back or project us forward in time. It is about connection and the personal impact an image can have on us. Street photography has the wonderful ability to allow us to step into an image and at the same time allow a distance for us to begin to understand its impact
Then there are things which do not need to be understood or examined, things which just have a beauty. Things like lines, shapes, colours and movement. Blur, for me, is the most beautiful and enchanting of photography. It can transform the mundane and dull. I am intrigued by contradictions and blur can reveal and conceal.
Last note heard
This coincidence continues
AB: What apps do you use for the production of your abstract work?
BOS: I have downloaded many apps over the past two years but the one I have stuck with is Snapseed. It is simple to use and gets great results. The one thing I wish it had was the ability to paste from previous settings so that a series of images could all be processed in the same way.
The warmth of the womb
AB: Where do you get your inspiration? Are there any particular subjects or photographers that have influenced your work?
BOS: Subjects would be movement and form for blur images. For street work it is people; people with character and attitude. There are many photographers who inspire and influence me; mainly contacts I have made on Flickr. Of course, I admire well-known and world-famous photographers, but the ones who impact on me are those whose work I engage with on a personal level. People like Michael Kistler, Shel Sherkin, Mark T. Simmons, Mimo Khair, Albion Harrison-Naish. These photographers have a signature style and the ability to compose stories with their street work. I have made many friends on Flickr and learned so much from them that I wish I could name them all here.
AB: You shoot with a DSLR camera as well as your iPhone. How do the two compare and do you have a preference?
BOS: With the DSLR I know I can produce a technically better shot because of the different ways it can be managed and with the iPhone it allows me get in close and to get in discreetly. The DSLR is bulky. Carrying it around my neck is like carrying a bucket of water around. It weighs too much and on a hot day it is not comfortable. The two cameras are great. I love both and would struggle to choose, but as I said earlier the best camera you have is the one you have with you, and more often than not it is the iPhone.
AB: You are currently travelling through east Asia and documenting your travels in a series of street images. How did this trip come about?
BOS: My wife is Korean, so we came out on a trip to visit family. We are lucky to have some really great friends in Hong Kong and we stayed with them for a few days en route. Part of the trip was business for me and this took me to Seoul and Japan. I also took a short break to Taipei to experience a new city in Asia.
AB: Looking at the street portraits from this series. There seems to be a different feel and approach to the images you’re capturing. Have you found your new surroundings have changed the way you approach your subjects?
BOS: In Taipei, I was surprised at how camera-friendly the people were. Sometimes, understandably, people do not like the camera being pointed in their faces and often you can be met with a scowl when you raise the camera or they may cross their hands to signify they do not want their photograph to be taken, but in Taipei most often they smiled when they realized I had been shooting them. Sometimes, they wanted me to take more photographs and began to pose for me!
Asia has a different dynamic to Europe. It is frenetic. There is a pace and sensation to it so different to where I come from. Wanting to shoot street can be frustrating when you come from a place where there are not enough streets or people. Here in Asia, that is not a problem. Find an interesting location and you know you will not have to wait long for an interesting character to pass. I once waited in the cold and rain for over an hour in Cork to get a shot in a cool location.
On this trip, I promised myself to be brave to get that shot. It has worked, I suppose. I got this shot of a Seoul policeman. He was not too pleased it seems.
Soured Faced Cop
AB: Are there any interesting stories or incredible encounters that lie behind any of the photographs captured on your travels?
BOS: My bravery did get me into one or two tricky situations, like when I was trying to get a shot of a woman who was sitting with her legs crossed and dangling her shoe on her outstretched toes down a side alley. Her shoe was in a perfect pool of sunlight. I was on my knees with the DSLR setting the shot up when I suddenly heard shouting. I ignored it at first, but then it dawned on me that the shouting was directed at me. I had not realized that this alley was where prostitutes hung out and this guy, probably a pimp, was shouting at me and the woman with the dangling shoe had stopped dangling it and was now also shouting at me. I got up off my knees and with the camera swinging around my neck I scarpered.
Prostitute Alley shot with a DSLR
Heading back to the hotel one night in Taipei I walked past this open door to an apartment block and noticed the doorman was asleep. I turned back, got the iPhone out and as I passed again I took a shot. It was blurred. Now, I had promised myself that on this trip I would be brave. I would not pass up opportunities to get that shot. So, I went back and crept in to get as close as I could to get it. The following night I passed again and noticed he was awake. I popped my head in and he growled at me. I can only imagine what might have happened had I woke him when I was getting the image.
The things I did not reveal in the job interview
AB: Finally, how can people connect with you?