Remembering my friend photographer Colin O’Brien; the man at work

Colin O’Brien 1940 – 2016; missing my friend

Its been a strange week because a good friend of mine died last Friday, 19th August and I heard the news the following day, Saturday.  And he’s been in my thoughts ever since.  Colin was a wonderful photographer and a chronicler of British life. He worked mostly in black and white which was an aesthetic I too loved.

We became friends about eight years ago and one of his many great qualities was a love for other people and their passions.  He would fire questions at you so fast, almost as if he hadn’t heard the answer but he had.  And then fly off at an interesting and often very funny tangent.

Of course I wanted him to show an interest in my work and he did in the best possible way by simply being encouraging. He often read my blog and said how much he enjoyed it. And the best feedback he gave was, “you should get a better camera, you have an eye.”  So I did do that.

There have been some wonderful tributes to the man and his work this week and I’ve put up links at the end of the post.  My contribution is to give you a glimpse of the man at work.  I’d forgotten I had these 6 images and I came across them in my archive this week whilst looking for something else.

RT75 Anniversary: a celebration of RT1 double decker bus, 12 April 2014

I grew up in London travelling on the red routemaster buses. And so did Colin.  And we shared a passion for them.  So when I bumped into him early that April morning and he told me about this event, I decided I had to go along too.

Colin was there to record and celebrate the event for the blog Spitalfields Life. We’d arrived at different times and I wasn’t sure that I’d even see him because the buses were also travelling from Ash Grove bus depot in Hackney to Piccadilly Circus.  But then I did and I took a few snaps of him at work.

Looking at these 6 images this week, I realise that they show the thought and interest he took in his subjects. They give you a glimpse of the mind behind the camera. They are shown in the order I took them.

Here he setting up a photograph with one of the drivers.  I love that look of concentration, observing exactly how you board one of these buses.


Photographer Colin O'Brien at work April 2014


So now Colin has chosen his pose for the driver, he takes the shot.


Photographer Colin O'Brien at work April 2014


And in typical Colin style he continues chatting to the driver. Its that genuine interest in others that lies behind his vision and talent.


Photographer Colin O'Brien at work April 2014


[A bus-spotters note.  This model with the silver roof is the RT1 which is why this bus has been selected for the shot. The one on the left is a later model, an RTW.]

And now again, observing and thinking how to shoot that shot in the cab.


Photographer Colin O'Brien at work April 2014


At this point I wandered off to to find other images. And then I came across Colin again taking these two shots.


Photographer Colin O'Brien at work April 2014



And for the second one I cheekily snuck in for my image. You can just spot Colin to the left which tells you why the three conductors aren’t looking at me.


Photographer Colin O'Brien at work April 2014



And if you would like to read the post Spitalfield’s Life and see Colin’s pictures of that day click on this link On The Buses with Colin O’Brien.

I do feel grateful and so fortunate that we became friends outside of our love of photography also.  I will miss his cheery presence around Hackney.  Farewell dear friend.

Here are two links to wonderful tributes to Colin and his work.

Spitalfield’s Life where he was a regular contributing photographer So Long Colin O’Brien

The Guardian’s Sean O’Hagan has written a very full obit.  Colin O’Brien Obituary

4 thoughts on “Remembering my friend photographer Colin O’Brien; the man at work

  1. Dear Tanya, What a wonderful tribute to Colin. We are all deeply shocked by his loss. May I ask you something? As you may know, I try to keep my identity & gender a secret, so may I ask you to remove the photos that include images of me? With grateful thanks TGA

    • Dear Gentle Author, yes its still hard to believe that Colin is no longer with us. And I’m so pleased that you appreciated my tribute. It was hard to know what to add but I felt I had to say something. And I hope you’ll approve of my judicious edits in accordance with your request. Initially I went by the street art photography code which is not to show faces. However, I don’t wish to upset anyone, particularly at such a sad time, so thank you for letting me know.

  2. Always so sad hearing about the loss of a dear friend… I’m sure he is smiling down at you Tanya and I can understand how with each click of the shutter there will follow a thought of would Colin like this one?!! Just read the Guardian Obituary and I can see what a wonderful respected guy he was.. His photos of course with be here forever…

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