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Hard Ground Hardcover – 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...this is a powerful book..." Guardian 10 June 2011 "Other collections of lost souls (Richard Avedon's In the American West comes to mind) are different... We meet O'Brien's people one on one. Their 'otherness' is removed. The photographs engender compassion and empathy. If that sounds simple, it is because it is simple. And, as you know, being simple is very, very difficult. Hard Ground is a rare and powerful book." JOHN LOENGARD Life magazine photographer and picture editor, and one of American Photo magazine's "100 most influential people in photography" "If I can think of a book to relate to this one, it would be James Agee and Walker Evans's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. That book was photographed in 1936--during the Great Depression--and published in 1941. It had an enormous influence--and still does--on the way photography and writing can work together as a catalyst for social change... I think Hard Ground has this potential." MARY ELLEN MARK internationally renowned photographer and author of sixteen books, including Seen Behind the Scene, Exposure, and Twins

Review

Other collections of lost souls (Richard Avedon’s In the American West comes to mind) are different. . . . We meet O’Brien’s people one on one. Their ‘otherness’ is removed. The photographs engender compassion and empathy. If that sounds simple, it is because it is simple. And, as you know, being simple is very, very difficult. Hard Ground is a rare and powerful book. (John Loengard, Life magazine photographer and picture editor, and one of American Photo magazine’s “100 most influential people in photography”)|If I can think of a book to relate to this one, it would be James Agee and Walker Evans’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. That book was photographed in 1936—during the Great Depression—and published in 1941. It had an enormous influence—and still does—on the way photography and writing can work together as a catalyst for social change. . . . I think Hard Ground has this potential. (Mary Ellen Mark, internationally renowned photographer and author of sixteen books, including Seen Behind the Scene, Exposure, and Twins)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press; 1St Edition edition (2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 029272649X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292726499
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1 x 11.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There are a gazillion books out there that try to show you HOW to shoot photographs. All of them are pretty much the same. And then there are books that show you WHY to take photographs and this is one of those. What Michael O'Brien has done is to ease himself into a four year long exploration, an uncomfortable visual study of what life is like for the homeless in our country. Michael and I live in one of the most prosperous cities in the south. Filled with start up companies and billionaires and sleek German and English cars and lots and lots of big, charming houses. But in the same city we have hundreds and hundreds of fellow citizens who are homeless. And we as a culture conspire unconsciously not to notice them. But Michael did notice them. And he volunteered and met them and they revealed their very human nature to him and touched his sense of compassion and he told their stories thru photos that sing with spirit and grace. This was no "high speed press junket project" these pictures were earned one sandwich at a time. And it shows. Because in nearly every photo you, as the viewer, can feel a deep connection.

The book isn't preachy. Michael doesn't do that. But it's a master class in honest portraits. The design of the book is perfectly scaled to be not too intrusive not too understated. DJ Stout lets the pictures sing and the words float on the pages. But the real shocker, especially at this price, is the quality of reproduction. It's "no holds barred" perfect. The quadratones match the best darkroom prints I've seen.

Buy this book now. Live with it. Hold on to it. This is a modern classic on so many levels. Michael O'Brien has shown himself to be a world class photographer and world class human. And we can understand vicariously what that's all about. I'm buying two. One to hold on to and one to read and view vigorously.

Hate to use the "A" word but this is ART.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I buy a lot of photo books and to be honest, I end up selling most of them. But some are just so special they are keepers. Hard Ground is a keeper. The black & white photography is wonderful, the poetry by Tom Waits is a great match for the photos and the brief stories about the people are heartbreaking. This book really makes you want to learn more about these people. This is the new face of America. Take a good long look, then ask yourself how far you are from being one of these people. Not as far as you think. Buy this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is not too much I could say about this gorgeous book; the eyes of its subjects speak volumes for themselves. The Waits poetry additions really make the book, and on more than one photo I felt myself tearing up. Just lovely, and an important reflection on the people who have been left behind in our country. My dad is a musician and songwriter, and I am purchasing him a copy for Father's Day...I believe it could easily inspire a bout of beautiful and melancholy songwriting out of him.
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Format: Hardcover
Michael has created a truly lovely and troubling body of work with these images. He's gone where few of us are willing to go and spent many hours with people we try not to see. With this book in hand we must look into the faces of humans just like ourselves who travel a most difficult road. Beautifully shot,written, designed and printed it's a work that will remain relevant for a long time to come.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well produced and well written collection of portraits and poems. I've been a big fan of Waits for years and his involvement in non-music art is always exciting. O'Brien captures the reality that is Waits' music. Waits, as with his music, captures the essence of street life with just a few words. It's a must have for die hard Waits fans.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book thinking I might get some ideas on how to pose people and maybe learn some neat things about lighting location portraits. I'm glad I did but not for the reasons I've stated. When I opened the book and leafed through the pages, first once, then twice, then a third time, I saw clearly and deeply my brothers, my sisters, my neighbors, and sons and daughters. I touched every photo and tried to hear what they were saying. In the end, I saw me, but for the grace of God, and I am humbled by Mr O'Brien's work. He has truly captured the souls of these people and I have heard their stories. This book is shows us why we photograph. There are many books about how to photograph, but eventually technique gets in the way of why. Highly recommended for the beautiful reproduction, the poetry and the elegant, personal imagery.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a photographer and own hundreds of monographs that present all of the great names of photograpy. This volume -- with an exquisite agreement of subject, technique, and presentation -- takes its place with the finest of them. UPS Guy just handed me this book, and after my initial viewing I felt compelled to post this review in the hope that others who come across the listing will also get themselves a copy. These are powerful images, executed with mastery of an an extremely difficult technical approach, interspersed with wonderful pithy verses by Tom Waits. This is one of the finest and most important books of photography to appear in recent years.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michael O'Brien has put together a study of the homeless: With poetry by Tom Waits. It is an exciting study, and also a wonderfull text on portrait shooting. I look foward to studing with him soon at Sante Fe School of Photgraphy. Until then I will use his book as a learning tool.
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