Today marks the official beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, and the International Day of Happiness. Spring of course, is a time for new beginnings and new adventures, and we are celebrating with a mesmerising film courtesy of Niall O'Brien.
The film charts a special road trip across America, in which O'Brien comes into contact with a handful of inspirational individuals and captures moments of all-American beauty. O'Brien's archive of work – some of it sun-bleached and spiritual, some gritty and raw – always takes you to a new place and this is no exception.
Travelling and seeking out inspirational characters is at the heart of O'Brien's photography. Whilst his work is rich in charm, integrity and charisma that can be attributed to his Irish upbringing, he has explored the worlds of fascinating characters across the world. Punks on adventures from Brighton to Berlin; Wild Cat Will in Mexico for Another Man and north-west USA youths for a McQ campaign.
"I love the idea of the American road trip," O'Brien explains. "I’ve always wanted to go from San Francisco to New York, I mean who doesn’t? It’s Route 66; it’s Kerouac, everybody wants to fucking do that."
O'Brien has plenty of highlights from his epic two-week, 2,500+ mile road trip, following the Amtrak train tracks. "We met this crazy guy in Kansas who caught me filming his tractor in the distance. He said people get shot for trespassing on his land. We got chatting and it turned out his family were Irish. You go all the way to Kansas and meeting someone of Irish descent... And there was an amazing guy in St. Louis called William Banks Junior who had a huge grin, full of gold and diamonds. Turns out he was an ex-gang member from Pittsburgh. He cried when I asked if I could take his portrait – said he felt like a movie star."
Footage documented along the journey is set to the spliced audio: the voice of a young American girl the team encountered, who shares her hopes and dream, and an American preacher.
"Santa Fe is quite nice, quite a cool hippy town, but it's all about California for me," O'Brien explains. "I used to hate L.A. and now I love it. I’ve been going to New York since I was about 18 so I always assumed I’d live there and in cities but I think L.A. is kind of my place, I like the colours, I like the light, I like having a car, I like thinking and writing. "
"Confinement and lack of sleep. Relaxing spas and sandstorms. The beautiful people along the way inspired us. We lived the dream. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat."
Film and Photography by Niall O'Brien
Edit and Sound Design by Roman Rappak, BretonLABS