John O’Brian completed his PhD in art history at Harvard under the supervision of TJ Clark and in 1987 joined the University of British Columbia, where he is Professor of Art History and a Faculty Associate of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. He publishes on modern art history and criticism, and is the author, co-author, or editor of eighteen books and more than sixty articles. His current research is on nuclear photography in North America and Japan. He has organized four exhibitions on the subject, two of which, Strangelove’s Weegee(2013) and Camera Atomica (2015), were accompanied by catalogues. A related book, Atomic Postcards: Radioactive Messages from the Cold War, co-authored with Jeremy Borsos, was published in 2011.
In 2009, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2011, he received the Thakore Award in Human Rights and Peace Studies from Simon Fraser University and an honorary doctorate from Trinity College at the University of Toronto. In 2016, he was inducted into the University of Toronto Sports Hall of Fame.