Morgan O’Donovan

Morgan O’Donovan’s base is underneath a bridge on the A406(North Circular), what might be an awkward headquarters for most photographers is not only comfortable space but at times an inspiration for his work. His focus ranges from fashion, architecture and portraits his strength lies in capturing natural form in whatever shape it initially comes. His C.V is versatile featuring work by everyone from Dazed Digital to Wall Street Journal. He takes time out to talk to us.

Was being a photographer your long time ambition or something you happily fell into?

I’ve always been into taking pics, although not really perusing it until about 5 years ago.   I did get my first Double Page Spread when I was 13, on the Rose Garden at School!

Which do you use more analogue or digital and why?

I always find this a strange question.  It all depends on what you want as a result.  If i’m shooting architecture then I’ll shoot on 5×4, so i use film, but during fashion week when I shoot around 45000 frames, I use digital.

I don’t really like changing colour into B&W, so generally I use film if I want B&W images, Which also needs alot less re-touching.

What has been your favourite collaboration so far?

Probably a small shoot i did with Gareth Pugh many years ago, which involved shooting these huge silver cube balloons exploding out of a BMW.

How did you come up with the idea of the facebook project and was the end result as it was originally realized?

The Facebook project explores ideas of privacy that arise in the use of social networking sites.  The profile picture, a representation of ones self to the world, produces a complex array of ideas about how or what this image should be.  Is it actually an image of oneself or a found image?  How is the picture taken?  This self edit, creates half-truth images, and I found this an intriguing idea.

I was interested in giving people a unifying image, and see if people used it. In this people can compare each other, and this in turn sets up a forensic genealogical study, of groups/ clans.  A nod to the work of the Bechers.

Another part of this project is the distillation of the party photograph(most of these images were taken in clubs/openings etc.).  Removing the subject from the party context, asking them to conform to a set of rules and then have their picture taken.

Was it easy to get your subjects to trust your creative direction?

Sort of, I tried not to edit too much in the taking of the portraits, so I shot as many as possible.

Asking someone if you can take their picture gives them the choice, and thus giving the subject the power to decide.  Once they start thinking about making their decision you have them.  Sounds quite calculating, but photography is about communication, and the relationship you build with your subject, even if its just for 5seconds.  You have to start some sort of dialogue.  As most people were in various states, it took a lot of control to get them to not smile, look directly at the camera etc.  Part of the project is no emotion or expression.  That’s hard to explain to some one who’s just done a line of coke!

Do you branch into any music photography or have plans to?

I used to shoot loads of music, go on tour, was in a show at the Proud Gallery.  Now I seem to shoot more fashion, but still go to gigs and shoot a bit of music.

I’ve recently been hanging out with TeenagersInTokyo, and just done a little live video of them you can see it here-

What does 2010 hold for you, any projects you’re specifically interested in?

I’m showing the Facebook project in November at Dalston Superstore, which will be a very appropriate venue.  In many cases more is less, but with this I think its the other way round, so planning this 7m wall of portraits, which hopefully will be quite arresting.  Opens Wed 3rd Nov 6:30.

Looking forward to working more with James Cochrane (Vogue) during fashion week, which is starting to become quite a busy time of year for me now.

And finally I’m starting a new portrait project in Ireland, so giving myself a great excuse to go home all year long.