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Tony Blair and banana – Joanne O'Brien, 2007

10 April 2008

This picture came from one of Tony Blair’s last speaking engagements as PM last year. However, it has never seen the light of day until now. I was doing a PR job for an organisation hosting a breakfast meeting where an invited audience was given the opportunity to question the PM on policy.

Afterwards I was asked to go to the green room and photograph a smaller meeting. Blair was clearly a little peckish so everyone stood around while he ate a banana. It was one of those precious unscripted moments and I got a few frames before I was stopped. The man on the right of the picture was actually talking to Patricia Hewitt.

Understandably my employers that day were worried that publication would steal their thunder. A classic example of the compromises we make when we do PR.

Joanne O’Brien grew up in Ireland in a family with a storytelling tradition and settled in London in the late ‘70s having studied history in Dublin.

Self-taught, she started doing documentary photography and became a professional photographer in 1980. Her first big project was looking at the Irish in Britain, out of which came a book in 1988 followed by 3 exhibitions. She was a founder member of Format Photographers in 1984, an all women photo-agency which closed in 2002. Her work is currently available through Reportdigital & Photofusion.

In 2000 her work was included in the ‘Faces of the Century’ exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and has been widely published in books, newspapers & magazines. Specialising in portraiture and editorial photography, she has also worked on UK wide public information campaigns. A book of portraits & interviews with survivors of Bloody Sunday in Derry was published in 2002.

She has also worked in China, the USA and Europe and is currently working on a project about migrant labour in Britain.

See more work by Joanne O'Brien

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