Welcome to Day 2 of our profile of Michigan photographer Marjorie O'Brien.
Joel wonders if you'd say something about the influence of your father (argusmaniac) on your photography.
Marjorie: My dad is the one who has gotten me started in photography. I probably owe everything I've learned to him — thanks to my father, I've gotten impromptu photography lessons, gone on fantastic roadtrips, received great cameras — so I really thank him for that. We both seem to like the same subjects, though I think I tend to like architecture more than he does. He likes portraits; I like old buildings. At least my subjects don't fidget and aren't camera-shy. :D
Jimtown asks: Marjorie, you've recently returned from a trip to Austria and have been to Canada and a variety of states. What is your impression of Michigan after seeing a little bit of the world?
Marjorie: I still like good ol' Michigan. Austria was absolutely fantastic — it's so different from America and Michigan — the architecture, the landscape, the people. I definitely miss it, that's for sure. Everything there is on a grander scale, and when you come back to Michigan, it's just like, "Wow." But I prefer the good, old-fashioned Americana, and especially Michigan. I feel I can relate to the stuff here — not surprising, of course, but around here I can see the whole thing, the big picture, it seems like. In Austria, everything around you is beautiful and amazing and it leaves you in awe — but it all blends in, after a while. All the cathedrals and palaces start looking the same. Here, there's nothing like that, and when you do see something great, you know it. The day after I came back from Austria, I slept; the following day, I went to Ypsilanti's Depot Town to get reacquainted with American architecture.
Matt asks: I know you collect cameras. Is there a camera you'd really like to add to your collection?
Marjorie: Actually, what's amazing is that I haven't bought an old camera for quite some time! (I think…) I have too many cameras, and any unlucky visitor at my house will see them all over the place. My friends think I'm crazy (they also think I'm crazy for driving all the way to South Haven to take a picture of a theatre). My dream camera to find at a yard sale for a few bucks would be the Kodak Bantam Special — because it follows that streamline moderne styling, and I'm crazy about art deco stuff.
Matt also asked this doozy: If you could travel anywhere in the world, to any time in history to take a photograph, where and when would you go and why?
Marjorie: That's a tough one. There was a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where the two of them traveled back in time and took pictures of the dinosaurs — of course no one believed them. Going all the way back to the Jurassic Period to snap a few photos of T-Rex would be pretty cool, but I'd probably have to say America, before it was spoiled by European settlers. It would have been amazing to see Michigan's old forests, or the Great Plains out west, before they were destroyed.
Annie wonders: Who's got the best sign in Michigan?
Marjorie: Taking pictures of old signs is a relatively new hobby for me, so I can't answer this question with much authority. I would say that in Ann Arbor, the best sign I've seen is that of the Ypsi-Arbor Bowl. There's a great sign in Chelsea, the Pontiac sign. And then there's the Casler Hardware sign in Jackson.
Michigan Photographer Profile II
Prequel: Michigan Theatre Detail
Day II: Michigan Photographers: Marjorie O'Brien Answers Reader Questions