Tag Archives: brendan ó


The camera you have with you is your best camera. I remember reading that and thinking no, it can’t be. Surely, the expensive, top-of-the-range new Nikon is the best camera I have. Nonsense! The best camera is the one with you and nowadays it is my iPhone. What a fabulous invention this is. I do not think I could go a day without it. Its multi-function use makes it indispensable. It is the last thing I access before I sleep and the fist thing I power up when I wake.

Looking back to March 2013, and the images taken with the iPhone in that month, the one that stands out for me is this one I took sitting in the front seat of my father’s car on a wild and stormy night in Cork. We were stopped at traffic lights, the rain was bucketing down, wind holwing and this guy was waiting for the green man to appear before crossing the road. I was watching him wait and realised that he would walk into a very nice frame, I got the iPhone out and instragrammed up and clicked as he passed. Lovely! It is still one of my favourite iPhone images, if not any type of image.

Thanks again for passing by.



Posted in A Flickr Year, My own favourite photographs, photograph posts Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The room welcomed me alone


The bed had one plump pillow and another that felt sad. The duvet had a half that lay there flat.The room welcomed me alone and never heard me laugh.


Breathe to fade


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Where I come from waiting for the green man to appear before you decide to cross the road just does not happen. It is not uncommon to see mothers push their prams on to the street without any thought of whether cars are coming or not. They just know the cars will stop. The idea that jaywalking is something that is against the law is laughable to us.
In contrast, I remember the first time I went to Germany and stepped out of the hotel to see a group of people at the lights on a car-less street all waiting. Waiting for what, though? I bounded past them, crossing the deserted street, looking back to see if they followed. They didn’t. But their looks all said that I had just done something wrong. Something bad. Something illegal. I had not waited for the green man to signal that it was now safe and now within the law to cross the road. That there were no vehicles of any sort in sight did not matter. You wait. You obey.
But I am from Cork, we cross when we and where we want to.
And this brings me to the photo I am posting today. A photo taken on a wet night in late August on Cork’s Western Road. The building is Cork’s courthouse, an impressive edifice. I have taken a few shots of this before and knew what I was looking for. I wanted to get a blurred shot of people passing. And that it was raining and that there would be umbrellas in the shot all the better. But! It would not be that easy. Western Road is a busy road. It leads directly out of the city centre. Stationed on the opposite side of the road, the passing traffic could obscure the view.

I waited. I wanted to shot and I was willing to pass the time until I could get it. And time did pass. And the rain continued to fall. Times like this I get very self-conscious, especially in my hometown. Passersbys’ attention is drawn to a guy standing in the rain with a camera in his hand. They look around and examine the scene to see what could it be that he wants to photograph; to photograph in the pouring rain. But still I hung in there to get that shot. 

Then it appeared. Further up the road on the opposite side was a group of people, walking in couples and groups of threes approaching. And all seemed to have umbrellas. Perfect! This was it. I could get the shot and get home. I was, at this stage, soaking wet. I was sniffling and cold and impatient. On they came. I checked the settings on the camera. Checked the focus (or lack of it!). I glanced up and down the road and saw there was no traffic coming. Excellent. This shot was going to be exactly as I wanted it.

And then I saw the couple at the head of the group stop. Those behind too and soon a large swell of a group formed, all standing, all waiting at the pedestrian crossing of the intersection just before the courthouse.


Again, I shot a glance up and down the street. Not a car in sight. Over at the crossing they were at, not a car in sight. Yet, there they were waiting. Cross the road, for fuck’s sake cross the road, I found myself saying. But they waited and they waited and of course, cars came by on all sides. The view I had, unobscured on to the courthouse was now gone. Those damn Germans. Couldn’t they just cross the road. It was ten, maybe fifteen steps from either side. No, they preferred to wait in the rain for the green man to appear.

And then it did. The beep, beep, beep signalling it was safe to cross was audible from my side. The swell of the group stretched out into a long file as they crossed the road and began to come into frame. But by this time cars were passing on my side of the road blocking my shot. I had no choice but to get out on to the road past the cars on my side. There were no cars on the opposite side. I could get the shot. I dodged between the traffic. Not that difficult to do as Cork drivers expect people in the city centre to step out in front of them.

Click, click, click. I got it. One of the Germans saw me in the centre of the road taking their photograph and drew his friends’ attention to me. I gave a quick wave and ran back through the traffic to my side and headed home happy.

I had got the shot.



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Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

Very pleased to have been asked to do a feature for Chicago Center for Literature and Photography. Along with the photographs they selected, there is a short interview and one of my very short stories in there. Some of the photographs they chose surprised me, to be honest. But it is always interesting to see what others find interesting.
They asked me to give them a headshot or a selfie. I struggled with that, to be honest. As you all know, I do not post photographs of myself here, but last Friday I set myself to the task and the results are below. Like many things, I did not intentionally set out to take a self-portrait like this. I was sitting at my computer thinking how can I do this. I began to use the iMac’s Photo Booth, but was not happy with the results. I have my computer by the window and on this morning the sun was streaming through the blinds, resulting in streaks of light hitting the computer, the wall behind and my face when I turned to look out. I got the iPhone out, powered up Instagram, reversed the camera, lowered my head, raised my eyes and snapped and apped and the result is below. Then, intrigued, I got out the DSLR. That big, bulky beast and tried the same. It was not as easy this time, however. A lot of hit and miss, but one or two that I liked. The black and white one below is one of those.

This is the first time I have ever posted a photograph of myself on my Flickr stream. It is like sending a kid off to school on their own for the first time.  I don’t think there will be many more.
A big thanks to all for your continued support and inspiration.

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Why did they take the piano away?




Why did they take the piano away?

Posted in iPhone, photograph posts Also tagged , , , , , , |


It kind of followed that today I would post a photograph of myself, albeit a reflection in a mannequin. I took this on a photo walk around Cork on Sunday morning last. As you can see I have the weighty DSLR hanging in front of me and the fun iPhone taking the shot. I like the mannequin’s head. It reminds me of a bokeh head and you know how much I love those.



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Fear and street photography

A while back, I read a tweet from Eric Kim, a well-known and respected street photographer. His tweet was: “The biggest impediment to getting over the fear of shooting street photography is not liking having your own photograph taken.”  My immediate reaction was this was nonsense as many other fears about street photography immediately came to mind, but it did get me thinking.

Am I afraid when I am shooting street? It really depends where I am. If I am in Cork, my hometown, I can be hesitant, anxious and uncomfortable. There are fewer streets and fewer people. The chances of knowing someone are high. I can easily envisage a scene where someone could become aggressive or even violent. When I am in big cities, I am anonymous. I have a licence to photograph: I am a tourist. What I encounter around me is new, is interesting, is valid for documenting. When I am in my hometown, I do not have that feeling. What curiosity do I have about those I encounter on the streets of my hometown?

Now, I do not like having my photograph taken. But taken in what context? Posing for a photograph when on holidays or for a particular event like Christmas or a birthday, I am self-conscious; who isn’t? Being snapped surreptitiously when I am walking down the street; fine. If I am aware of it, I think I might be a little bewildered as to why someone would want to take my photograph. Being snapped when I am in an intimate moment with family, I would feel like it is an intrusion. Having thought about Eric’s tweet, I am still struggling to get his point. For me, the biggest fear I have about shooting street is invasion. Invading someone’s right to privacy. As I write this, I am beginning to consider that perhaps what he means is – to shoot street we have to get over our own fear of our own privacy being invaded in that moment when our photograph is taken. But this is not something I spend time thinking about, to be honest. When I am in public places the thought that someone might take my photograph never crosses my mind. Perhaps as someone who likes street photography this is naivety of my part. I don’t know.  Anyway, Eric Kim is a photographer I like. He has a good blog, posts interesting articles and can tweet things to get you thinking.

One of the fears I have when shooting street is killing the moment. Hoisting the camera, drawing attention to my action, putting people on alert that I am going to take a photograph. That is why the iPhone is so good for street work. What other fears do I have when shooting street? That’s for another post.

In the meantime, here are some of my most recent images taken out and about in Cork with the iPhone.






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Someday I will just drop off this world

When I was a child in school the teacher told us the world was not flat, that it was round. I had never thought of the world having shape. He seemed too pleased to tell us this. He said people had believed we could just walk and walk and eventually would fall off the edge of the world. He demonstrated by walking his two fingers along his desk, stopping and looking to see if we were looking and then dangled his two fingers over the edge and screamed a little until it changed into a laugh. We all laughed too.

Falling off the edge of the world, he said. How ridiculous is that, he said. One boy, one who always loved asking questions, asked but how come we can fall of the edge of our seats. The teacher smiled at him and said it was because of gravity. He said it again, but this time he said it more slowly, breaking up the sounds and telling us that was why; gravity was the reason. The boy asked what gravity was. The teacher said it was a force that kept us fixed to the ground. The boy asked what a force was and the teacher smiled again, scanned the whole room, bit on his bottom lip and said it was gravity, gravity was a force that stopped us from flying away. Another boy said we could not fly away because we had no wings. The teacher said if there was no gravity we wouldn’t need wings, we could just jump and fly. I said why would we need to jump. He said because we would be on the ground. He jumped to demonstrate. I said but isn’t gravity what keeps us on the ground. He said yes. I said without gravity we would not be on the ground so how could we jump. He scanned the room again and said I had all the answers. I said that was a question. I said how could we jump if we were not on the ground. The teacher laughed. He said he would like to walk me to the edge of the world and let me fall off. He laughed again. The class laughed too. I said if we got to the edge of the world I would push him off. He did not laugh. The class laughed. But the world is round he said. You couldn’t push me off he said. He began to laugh. I said I would not be walking anywhere with him anyway. This time we all laughed.

The teacher picked up an orange from his desk and held it out. He rotated it in his hand and told us the world was like the orange.



Someday I will just drop off this world

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My music box of dreams has unwound

When I was little my mother would stand on our doorstep and watch me walk down the hill on my way to school. My schoolbag was made of old, brown leather and had straps that allowed me to carry it on my shoulders. Even though I knew she would watch until I turned the corner, I still would turn around to check. I had to turn because the schoolbag was too big for me to glance over my shoulder. Reaching the corner, I would wave to her and she to me. Then she would go back in home to do her housework and I would unstrap my schoolbag, walk over to the walled garden of the corner shop and drop the bag in.  Then I would climb in after it.

– Is that you, boy?

– Ya. I’m here.

– What kept you?

– Nothing. Sure, I’m here now aren’t I?

In the darkened shade of the evergreen trees, we would wait. 



Posted in iPhone, Words Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

No dread of hello

Leaving, like so much it is the anticipation. The dread. The slow build to those goodbyes. Once they’re done, you have not left, you have arrived.

The familiar faces are replaced with those of strangers. You see it in the way they don’t even look at you. You catch your own reflection as you walk along the electric walkway. It surprises you.
You are self- contained now though, secure. Your small white earbuds play loud music. You feel your throat vibrate as you hum. Should you wear those sunglasses too?

Identity check. You are in the queue with your passport open at the photograph page. One by one they pass through. You hand your passport to the official. He looks at your photograph, looks at you and with a lowering of his head, hands it back to you.

On the plane you sit at the window seat. The raindrops settle on the pane. A man sits in next to you. You fear he will want to chat. He does. Time-killing, inane, bland exchanges. You close your eyes. Apologize. I am praying, you say. I am a nervous flier. He smiles and says it is OK.

Coming home? Or is it leaving home? There is no dread of hello. Not this side.


These things we carry with us (iPhone photograph)



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