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Walt O'Brien

Photo by Paul Neevel
Photo by Paul Neevel

“I got my first camera at the age of 13,” says Walt O’Brien, who joined the camera club at Stephen F. Austin Junior High in Amarillo, Texas. “Our darkroom was in the janitor’s closet.” O’Brien built a darkroom in the attic at home while in high school and another in the basement of his frat house at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. He spent one five-month summer season working at Yellowstone National Park while in college and three more summers there after graduating with a degree in German. “I had only one day a week off,” he says. “I used it for landscape photography.” In between summers he worked in a camera store in Amarillo, did freelance photography and took classes at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. After moving to Oregon in 1973, O’Brien worked for photo firms in Corvallis, Salem and Roseburg. In 1980, he opened his own business, The Picture Machine, a one-hour photo lab in Roseburg. “It was the second one-hour lab in Oregon,” he says. “I ran it for 15 years.” Since 1996, he has provided custom photofinishing services in Eugene. He offers inkjet printing from film or digital, traditional film processing and enlargement, and late 1800s-era palladium printing. The front room of his shop at 2833 Willamette Street, Suite B, is the O’Brien Photo Gallery, currently featuring photographs by members of the Photozone Gallery group. O’Brien himself has been an active member of Photozone since 1992. His exhibit of 36 color photographs, Natural Landscapes of the American West, is on view at the University of Oregon Law Center’s second-floor Atrium Gallery through July 7.