Michael James O’Brien received a Masters in Fine Arts from Yale University where he studied in the 1970s. He was associate professor of photography at Kenyon College in Ohio and taught at the New School in New York City in the mid-80s.
His work has been commissioned by publications such as The New Yorker, Departures, Rolling Stone, Financial Times, Donna, Elle Décor, The New York Times, L’Uomo Vogue, Travel&Leisure, Zoo, CondeNast Traveler, Sang Bleu, Metal and by advertising clients including Illy Caffe, Penhaligon’s London, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Longchamp, Piazza Sempione, Bergdorf Goodman, Thierry Mugler, Polo Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nautica.
In 1993 he began a collaboration with American artist Matthew Barney, producing all of Barney’s still photographs and creating a photographic parallel to his Drawing Restraint 7, Cremaster 1, 2, 4, 5. These works have been exhibited at the Musee Moderne in Paris, the Guggenheim New York and throughout the world.
An accomplished and published poet, O’Brien has been editor-at-large of the print and on-line poetry fanzine Verbal Abuse since its inception in 1993. He has read at Jackie 60, Cabaret Magique, TheNuyorican in New York and The Groucho Club in London.
From 1997 – 2002 he was an owner of the restaurant/bar Chez EsSaada in New York.
His book of photographs, Girlfriend; Men, Women & Drag was published by Random House in 1999.
He was Creative Director of Designers against AIDS in 2010 and co-edited the book, Designers against Aids; The First Decade, published by Ludion.
He is currently a Contributing Editor at Departures.
His work was shown at Galerie 213 in Paris in 2004 & 2005 and at Hermes New York in 2007. Group shows include Noovo in Santiago de Compostella in November 2007, artphotoexpo at ArtBasel/Miami in December 2007 and Indian Caps in Antwerp in April 2011.