Celebrating the people and projects of TU's Division of Administration and Finance

Susan O’Brien: TU’s Unofficial Photographer

By Joanne Bracken

Susan O’Brien can’t remember exactly when she became interested in photography, but it was long enough ago that her equipment has evolved from a 35mm camera with film to a digital one!

Over the years, Susan’s interests have changed and grown. In the early days, her main interests were nature photography and taking candid pictures of her family. She even took pictures for university publications while working at TU in Design & Publications, now known as the Design Center.

Back in the 1980s, with her husband working in TU Athletics, she was given the opportunity to take pictures on the field at the Towson football and lacrosse games. After her son and daughter were born, and they started participating in recreation council sports, she developed her skills even more as an action photographer.

Susan O'Brien

It was unusual to find Susan at her children’s sporting events without her camera. Susan’s son Kyle, 23 and daughter, Sarah, 21, were involved in a variety of sports from a young age. While Sarah focused mainly on horseback riding and thoroughbred racing, Kyle participated in football, lacrosse and wrestling.
But taking pictures of her children each week, playing the same position, and doing the same thing, grew old. This prompted Susan to start photographing other children on the team, which she then gave to their parents.  Some parents asked specifically if she would take pictures of their children and she gladly did without charge.

“I have a hard time charging people I know for anything,” Susan said. “Taking pictures is something I just love to do. I have always felt that if you take something you enjoy doing and make it into a business, it will stop being fun.”

Susan’s son Kyle recently finished his sixth and final year of football at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and on two occasions in the past few years when William and Mary played Towson, Susan was able to take pictures on the field. She took pictures for Towson, her alma mater, but snuck in a few pictures of her son here and there.

In an effort to stay unbiased during the games, she wore neutral colors (but caught heck from her son for unknowingly wearing JMU colors at this year’s game!), and hid her emotions when William & Mary made a big play. Several of her recent photographs have appeared in Towson’s football Media Guide and programs, as well as on the Towson Athletics website.

“The trick to taking good action shots is to anticipate what is going to happen,” Susan said. “You have to plan ahead and take some practice shots on someone else beforehand. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. But you learn each time. Working with digital makes it a lot easier because you can delete the pictures that don’t turn out to your liking.”

Now that her son’s football career is over, Susan will get back to nature photography, or taking pictures of her daughter’s horses, until perhaps she becomes a grandmother and her grandchildren start participating in sports! Despite the changes in the subjects of Susan’s photos one thing always remains: her love of capturing a great photograph.

An action shot by Susan O'Brien


Taken by Susan at a home game against William & Mary


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