Come hear photographer Matthew James O'Brien discuss his photos of Colombia, currently on view in the 5th floor Art & Music Department in an exhibit entitled No Dar Papaya: Fotografías De Colombia 2003-2013.
These remarkable images, created with a Polaroid camera, celebrate the beauty, diversity, and distinctive national character of Colombia. The work presents a unique vision of the country that is an alternative to the ubiquitous portrayals of Colombia commonly found in the international media, which focus on conflict, violence, drug trafficking, and suffering. This kind of imagery, known as “pornomiseria” in Colombia, is not what interests O’Brien, who was captivated by the country’s tremendous warmth and humanity and cultural and geographical richness.
The work was first shared with the public in Colombia through a series of exhibitions and the publication of the book No Dar Papaya: Fotografías de Colombia 2003-2013 (Placer Press). The book is now available in the United States, and it is launching here in the Bay Area. In his introduction to the book, Juan Alberto Gaviria Vélez, Director, Paul Bardwell Contemporary Art Gallery of Medellín, writes: “We are surprised by Matt O’Brien’s work, by his capacity to illustrate in the landscape of each region he visited, its essential features from where the protagonists come, the humanity that shines in their faces, their kindness, their desire to be observed in a different way.” Find more information about No Dar Papaya here.
About the Artist
Matthew James O’Brien’s photography explores humanity and the natural world. A Bay Area native, much of his work has focused on California, including Back to the Ranch, his exploration of ranching in the East Bay and its demise due to urbanization, and Looking For Hope, a collaborative study (photos by him, texts by students) of the public school experience and growing up in the inner city Oakland, where he taught for several years. His work has been exhibited and collected by various institutions, including the Library of Congress, the California Museum of Photography, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Museo de Arte Moderno in Cartagena, Colombia. Among the awards he has received are a Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography Award, a Community Heritage Grant from the California Council for the Humanities, and a Fulbright Fellowship (Colombia). O’Brien teaches photography in English and Spanish, in the United States and internationally. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a BA in Zoology.