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Michael James O'Brien



Michael James O’Brien is a photographer, teacher, curator, poet, and activist currently based in Atlanta, GA. He has had solo exhibitions in New York, Paris, Beijing, Hong Kong, Antwerp, Istanbul, Liverpool, and Savannah GA. in addition to having worked in London’s National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. His work has been featured in publications like Rolling Stone, Vogue UK, The New Yorker, GQ, Eyemazing, Black & White Photography UK, The Guardian, The Financial Times among many others. He has been Editor-at-Large of Verbal Abuse, the poetry zine as well as Contributing Editor for Departures Magazine.


His book Girlfriend; Men, Women, and Drag, with text by Holly Brubach, was published by Random House in English, French & Japanese in 2000. From 1900 to 2000 he did all the still photography for Matthew Barney’s

Drawing Restraint 7 as well as Cremaster 1,2,4 & 5 which were exhibited worldwide.


For over 20 years, O’Brien was a member of ACTUP as well as a volunteer for GMHC and Terrence Higgins Trust UK. He was a co-producer of the Love Ball in NYC & Paris, which over the years raised more than $3million for people living with HIV/AIDS.


He was the Creative Director for DAA/Designers Against Aids in 2011-12 and produced the Live Positive Campaign for the Flemish HIV Awareness organization, SENSOA in 2013.

O’Brien is based in Atlanta where he is the Chair of Photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design/SCAD. He is currently the Chair of the Advisory Council of Atlanta Celebrates Photography.


Kouros Series

Matthew Barney Series

Matthew Barney describes the last and final part of the cycle as a lyric opera of a tragic love story set against the romantic backdrop of Budapest. The main characters in the epic are the Queen of Chains and the magician and escape artist Harry Houdini.

In Spite of dreams Series

A combination of analogue and digital compositions based on ideas from Ovid’s Metamorphosis, deconstructed and subverted to my own narrative. MJO, 2021

Girlfriend Series

“So the object brings the subject to life not in its relative presence, but in its irreducible absence.”

- Jean Baudrillaud, Integral Reality

Still-life Series

Opalina Series