Celebrated British photographer Colin O’Brien recently launched ‘London Life’, his new book featuring dramatic and affectionate images of London selected from seven decades of his work in the capital. Metro was delighted to produce black and white resin prints
for the launch which took place in Soho last month and the continuing exhibition.
O’Brien is a Londoner born and bred, spending much of his childhood years in the poor and derelict areas of post-war Clerkenwell or ‘Little Italy’ as it was also called due to the high percentage of Italian immigrants that lived there. He has been photographing that area since 1948, often from the window of his childhood home on the corner of Farringdon and the Clerkenwell Road.
In the early years he used a bog standard Kodak Box Brownie
camera but later moved onto to a Leica Model 111a
with an Elmar f3.5 lens, which he is rumoured to have acquired after an Irish neighbour found it on the back seat of the Rolls Royce he chauffeured. “He must have seen me with my old box camera and offered the Leica to my parents for a nominal sum. These sorts of deals with expensive merchandise being sold ‘off the back of a lorry’ were not uncommon.” O’Brien revealed.
He continued, “Early pictures of myself show me carrying a box camera of some sort around with me. My first real photograph was of two boys leaning against a car in Hatton Garden. This is where my interest in recording the passing scene really started; there in Clerkenwell, in Little Italy, in the borough of Finsbury, where I grew up with my mum and dad and my aunts and uncles and all my friends and acquaintances.”