We all know how difficult it is to land client-based work with established names in any industry, which is why getting on the ground floor with a company in its infancy is such an alluring prospect. The catch — and there’s always a catch — is that your first couple of shoots for them are probably going to be for cheap, if not completely pro bono. But after a while, if everything comes together and the company ends up doing well, you might find yourself in Sean Murphy’s position: on retainer.
I met the owners of BOTE in the early days. They were making boards in a garage and had just one store open. A mutual friend hooked us up in 2009, when I was in Florida visiting from LA. They seemed interesting, so I offered to do a photo shoot. They let me paint a jeep and set some stuff on fire, so I’d say we were off to a good start. I kept doing free shoots for a year or two and it eventually evolved into a regular gig.
I am now on retainer with the company and am responsible for all photo and video content these days.
What started as an opportunity for Sean to get stuff for his portfolio ended up as an audition of sorts. Sean’s images caught the eye of the paddle board company’s graphic designer. The rest, as they say, is history.
The original pitch that came from me was, ‘Can I shoot around the shop and get some content for myself?’ Their graphic designer, Rob McAbee, saw the content and said, ‘Who is this guy? You NEED to get this guy on the team!’ They brought me on board after seeing the personal work I was doing for them, and my photos helped shape the look of the brand.
Since he’s basically a Day One collaborator, Sean is involved with just about every part of any BOTE shoot, images from which usually show up online and in the company’s in-house publication. An avid outdoorsman who was raised right near the company’s headquarters, the Floridian was always going to be a good fit for this line of work.
BOTE is primarily a paddle board company, but they also manufacture other things like exercise matts, inflatable chairs, and kayaks.
I am a huge fisherman and grew up in the town where BOTE is based. I became extremely familiar after shooting with them. Now as each product is thought up, I am usually involved right away.
And since Sean is the point person for content, he’s had to diversify his skillset to incorporate motion. Though a photographer “first and foremost,” Sean is keenly aware that most contemporary jobs require some kind of video element.
I have always dabbled, but it was not my priority. I am of the mindset ‘do one thing and do it great.’ I am a photographer first and foremost. But as things in our industry change, I must change. Most jobs require video. I have become a very capable director and shooter. With BOTE I shoot, direct, and produce. We are a small, nimble team featuring some great videographers. I love working with those guys.
These folks have to be nimble because, as we’ll learn shortly, they go on some serious (sometimes unplanned) adventures. While that sort of mindset brings quite a bit of gravitas to a company which recently marketed a line of products with the slogan “Come Hell or Highwater,” it also leads to … well, just read this:
About four years ago, a bunch of us decided to go to the Everglades in December to paddle about 100 miles from point A to point B. To make things interesting, we thought it’d be cool not to bring any food with us and to live off the land. Little did we know the Everglades had just experienced one of the coldest weeks in history and all the fish and animals went dormant. I had a half a jar of peanut butter hidden in one of my bags and one of the other guys brought some gummy bears. It was like one of those weird survival movies where everyone turns against each other. We wouldn’t leave each other out of our site out of fear that someone had food and was eating. Corey decided to get to a point B faster than originally planned due to the fact we were starving. We ended up paddling 100 miles in three days. Toward the end of it, we were literally falling asleep on our boards as we paddled and were in full delirium. When we finally reached a point B, I heard screaming and saw headlights coming from a parking lot. There was a 14-foot saltwater crocodile underneath the dock waiting to greet us. We also had no one to pick us up and had to trade boards for a 50-mile ride to civilization.
See more of Sean’s work at seanmurphyphoto.com.
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