We first came across photographer Colin O’Brien last autumn, when we interviewed him about his stunning 1987 series Traveller’s Children in London. The book which housed the series was an understated affair, allowing his monochromatic images to speak for themselves, which they did in volumes of sentimentality and nostalgia. And while understated can be lovely, Colin’s back catalogue is so extensive – beginning as it does in 1948 and stretching all the way to the present day – that we couldn’t help but feel that he deserved something more.
Fortunately, London-based design collective They That Do agreed. Working closely with Colin to select 65 images to correspond with the 65 years he has been taking photographs, Vincent Howcutt from the studio did everything possible to ensure that all elements of the book contribute to recreating his perspective, from using a “thread sewn and open bound” format to ensure that nothing of the images gets lost in the bind, to including captions which describe the situation the photographs were taken in.
They even made a brilliant short film with filmmaker Aaron Kyle, which further emphasises the creative input Colin has had into the publication. “I often get asked by students of photography today, ‘how do I get so close to society’s outsiders?’” Colin explains in the film. “But to me they weren’t outsiders, because I grew up with those kinds of people.” If only all photography publications gave such thorough insights into the brains of the people who made them.