Brandon O'Neill | Issue Eleven Interview

Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work 

My growing body of work focuses on the land and how humans use, abuse, and traverse it. I am interested in geology and the relationship humans have with the land that has been carved, weathered, subducted and uplifted over millions of years. Dust covered roads weaving through the desert, telephone poles dotting otherwise pristine hills-- the mark of humankind reaches far throughout the natural world. We use the land to our advantage but at our own risk-- nestling subdivisions in fire-prone canyons and mining deep for energy sources in areas completely unfit for human habitation, clearing forests in favor of crop land and draining reservoirs to power distant metropolises. I aim to capture the stark vastness of landscape and time in comparison to the blip of human activities that dot it. Emotions past residing inside a shuttered home on overgrown land, a deer carcass decaying on top of a centuries old graveyard-- I seek to showcase the fragility not only of the land, but of the civilization on top of it. 

How would you describe your approach to photography?

Drive out, get out, walk about with the camera strapped on.  But sometimes I don't even get out-- some of my favorite photos are shot through a dirty windshield. Give me that grittyI don't extensively plan ahead-- I'd rather see where the day takes me. Some of the photos I end up with surprise me-- there's a clear thorough-line in my work that was not premeditated. Perhaps I'm tapping into some subconscious thought process, maybe some deep-rooted views of the world. You know-- definitely views of the current state of the planet, views I find hard to express with words.  

What do you feel the role of artists and photographers is in society?

Re-contextualizing the mundane everyday-- to showcase the areas one automatically and unknowingly shuts out. You don't realize you're falling into patterns on the everyday-- tunnel vision sets in and suddenly you're numb and tuned-out for days or weeks at a time. A strong piece of art has the ability to pull one out of themselves. A strong piece of art can help one see the everyday around them in a new light. I think this also rings true for super saturated locations when it comes to landscape photography-- with a popular vista in a National Park you end up with the same photo over-and-over. You see the shot on Instagram and immediately want to get out there to shoot it yourself-- but you know maybe there's something interesting at the foot of that mesa, or a peak the sun hits just right in the shadow of that super popular mountain. An artist can wake people up, open their eyes.   

How can artists raise awareness for mental health?

I think artists creating authentic work can add to important conversations, especially for those of us who struggle to find the words to put to feelings. It's powerful to view and connect with another person's work-- for me, it's validating to see an artist's work that speaks to whatever it is that's floating around my skull.

Are there any upcoming exhibitions or projects in the works?

I am currently in production on the third volume of my portfolio book series.


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