NOBODY’S GUIDE TO LIFE ON THE ROAD: THE POWER OF INDEPENDENCE
Written by Nolan Shumate on December 24, 2019
One of the best things about the internet is that anyone can share their work. One of the worst things about the internet is that *anyone* can share their work. Separating yourself as an artist, or as a person, from the ever-expanding crowd of the internet is no easy task. Building a following can sometimes seem impossible and completely up to chance and that’s especially true while trying to do so independently, completely devoid of the safety net that operating as part of a company or a larger network may provide. However, if you manage to do so, you may have the chance to do something really special.
Brittany O’Brien, a once hopeful meteorologist now turned indie-tour photographer icon, had quite the crowd the separate herself from. Photography is an industry almost completely reliant on the individual. There exists no photography consultants for her line of work, no objective spectrum of “good” or “bad”, nor any new mediums to differentiate yourself from those around. Others can often be viewed as competitors instead of peers, and it’s an art form that’s just as much technical prowess as it is artistic vision.
Yet, on September 30th, O’Brien announced that her book Nobody’s Guide to Life on the Road would be available for pre-order. The pre-order was met by success and support by O’Briens exceedingly wholesome and loyal fans, myself included.
The book was set to ship out on December 4th, accompanied by a show hosted by O’Brien herself in Los Angeles.
Admittedly, as a fan, I was curious to see what was to come with the delivery of my copy. I knew I supported O’Brien and was a long-time admirer of her work, but in such a unique and individualistic industry, what was there to be revealed? I feel like photography and writing are connected in several ways, but writing a book is quite different than photography, right?
Nobody’s Guide to Life on the Road is a true testament to the power of independence. While comprised mostly of O’Briens photo work throughout the recent years, Nobody’s Guide to Life on the Road is a beautiful example of how a person can achieve exactly what they want to if worked at long enough.
Told in nine entries, O’Brien captures her entire journey from hopeful freelancer to fan favorite and the lifestyle that it creates for her. The juxtaposition between O’Briens emotional revelations in each entry and the photos that accompany it forces the reader to look at her work in a new light. After reading each entry, you begin to see the person behind the camera just as easily as you see the person in front of it.
I’m sure there is more to be told about O’Brien’s career, but ultimately that doesn’t feel important. Nobody’s Guide to Life on the Road isn’t an autobiographical tale focused on revealing the intricacies of how to succeed as an artist, but rather the conveyance of personality and candidness that has seemingly been the catalyst for O’Brien’s work. Nobody’s Guide to Life on the Road is a wonderful example of placing an artist right alongside art to understand the product, as well as what goes into it.
The unfiltered sincerity that O’Brien attributes to her experiences successfully shorten the distance between artist and fan and shines light upon the side of something that is not seen much. I’m personally a fan of the Dirt entry.
While O’Brien’s photo-work in the book revolves heavily around her familiar community of musicians, her style transcends any semblance of repetitiveness. It’s fascinating to see O’Brien’s work grow alongside the artists that she associates herself with throughout her career. There’s enough work in there to piece together an entire timeline that follows along the growth O’Brien talks about, and if you’re eagle-eyed enough, you’ll catch a wonderful cameo from the Music Saves shop across from the Beachland Ballroom! You love to see some Ohio representation.
After taking delivery of my copy, I realized that what I hold in my hand is not some great piece of American literature, nor some deep exposé into how to succeed as a photographer, but rather something much more modest and meaningful. What I hold are the honest experiences, honestly told, and beautiful work from a true independent hellbent on proving that your dreams are achievable, just as hers were.
“I cherish documenting love. It’s the peak of human emotion. When I create an image, I hope for the audience to connect to it on an emotional level. Real moments of friendship help me express that more than anything else in the world.”