Dean’s list student expands artistic reputation

By Joshua Herring

Michael O’donohue Photo by Joshua Herring, The Keystone
Michael O’donohue
Photo by Joshua Herring, The Keystone

   Michael O’Donohue has made the dean’s list five times now. As a senior communications design major, he has recently begun culminating his portfolio and forming connections in the art world. In fact, this past summer, O’donohue lived out of a suitcase in New York City while he interned for Sandbox, a fashion photography studio.

“I couch surfed and cat sat for six hot shot art dealers throughout New York City,” said O’Donohue. The job sort of sprung on him: “I went for an interview and they just offered me a summer-long internship on the spot.” The KU Art Department was able to find professionals in the city whom were willing to let O’Donohue stay with them.

   In and out of various photography studios all over the city, O’Donohue said, “I never thought I would’ve learned so much in two months.” The first few weeks were slow, but after pushing to get more involved, O’Donohue “got to help with sets at so many exciting fashion shoots.” Now, he says, “I know how Calvin Klein and Target do their lighting.” He even became friends with one of the art directors for Talbots.

   After graduation, O’Donohue aims to start his career in fashion photography. He said, “I want to go to New York and dive right in and if it doesn’t work, I have a lot of design experience to fall back on.”

   Communications design will not be the field he pursues after KU, but O’Donohue says his experience in the program helps him approach photography the way a graphic designer would. He talks about being able to do photographs for opulent arts sections in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times magazine.

   “I want to become reputable, where art directors trust my work and my creativity,” he said. “Even if it doesn’t happen until I’m 30, that’s fine, as long as I get there.”

   Currently, all senior design students are busy putting together professional portfolios. O’Donohue said, “The big project, portfolio, is pretty much the most important assignment for art students. We print our work on quality paper, come up with our own logo and are constantly against the wall with deadlines.”

   O’Donohue plans to include some of his most prized work from his years at KU: a recent photo series of personified furniture for Bernhardt design, photo-counterparts and homage to Rene Magritte’s surrealist paintings and a KU fashion photography series of naturally lit and digitally enhanced portraits. The portfolio will also display various advertising projects, which include transit posters for Moleskin Inc. and fashion ads for high-end men’s retailer, Mr. Porter, which won the 2014 Graphis New Talent award.

   Anyone interested in seeing O’Donohue’s work can go to his online portfolio at He also coordinates an anonymous fashion blog.

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