Michael James O’Brien received the M.F.A from Yale University where he studied in the 1970’s with Walker Evans. He was associate professor of photography at Kenyon College in Ohio and taught at the New School in New York City in the mid-80’s
His work has been commissioned by magazines 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.
Advertising clients include Illy Caffe, Penhaligon’s London, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Longchamp, Piazza Sempione, Bergdorf Goodman, Thierry Mugler, Polo Ralph Lauren, Nautica, Saks Fifth Avenue and TBWA.
In 1993 he began a collaboration with 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 from October 2002-January 2003; at the Guggenheim New York in 2003 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, The Nuyorican 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 Contributing Editor of Departures.
Solo shows include: Galerie 213, Paris in 2004 & 2005, Hermes New York in 2006 and Joyce Gallery Beijing 2012.
Group shows include Noovo in Santiago de Compostella in November 2007, artphotoexpo at Art Miami/Basel in December 2007, Menno Kroon, Amsterdam, April 2010 and Indian Caps, Antwerp, June 2010.