We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.email@example.com
Anonymous Art Buyer: I nominate Sean Murphy. Sean is tenacious at living. He is vibrant, happy with an eye of the finest artist. Each of his takes makes me say AH! and I am an artist, so that’s not always an easy thing. He goes anywhere and traveling in his giant truck, he becomes part of the culture of what he is shooting and it shows.
How many years have you been in business?
Well, I got out of college in 1993. It was around 1995 that I started getting my first jobs, which at that time were mostly editorial. I knew a lot of bands, so I also ended up shooting rock and roll and album covers. I didn’t get my first advertising job until 1999, but by 2000 it became and remains the primary work that I do. I still do shoot music and editorial and I love the creative freedom it brings, but I don’t focus my energy on acquiring that work so much anymore. So, that’s the “too long” answer…it’s been about 20 years. :)
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
School. I spent a lot of time painting and sculpting while I was growing up. I had a girlfriend with an old Pentax that she loaned me and, on a whim, I signed up for a photo class at a community college in Orlando, Florida. I got the bug immediately, quit mid-semester, and moved to Boston to go to the New England School of Photography. I graduated Valedictorian in 1993.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
Before I went to Boston, I attended that photography class in Orlando. The teacher was a retired Time-Life photographer. His hands were gnarled from years of working with the chemicals. Cool guy. He said to me, “I never say this, but you have something special. If I were you, I’d leave here and go to Boston or New York.” So I did. Within a month, I was gone.
How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?
Well, for starters, I’m shooting ALL the time. I surround myself with uber-talented people. I get fueled by their vibes. And I have a crew of crazy, crazy-talented friends. They’re always keeping me laughing and I’m always inspired. So ultimately, I’m just photographing my life. I’m just grateful that who and what’s around me happens to be interesting.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
Hmm, I don’t know if I really get that direct input from the client. The creatives are acting as the intermediary.
I present my work as I see fit on my website and on social media.
Frequently, I’ll be asked by the creatives to put together a selection of work or a special presentation that they can show to the clients. If the client approves, I guess I get hired. Lately, I’m having the most fun in my career I’ve ever had. I’m getting hired to shoot exactly what I love to shoot. :)
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
As far as the internet is concerned: website/blog, Facebook, and Instagram. The usual suspects.
My primary engagement from the buying audience comes from my website, with Facebook coming a close second.
I travel a great deal. When I do, I always make arrangements to meet art buyers and creatives all across the country.
I’ll do a mailer a few times a year, and I also have books made of my work that I’ll bring with me to show to prospective clients.
Lately, I’ve been getting more attention for some of my rock and roll photography from years past, which is now going to be shown in some galleries, so that is also another new avenue that is exposing my work.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
You need to show a cohesive body of work. I’ve found that that’s more impressive to the buyer than trying to show your entire bag of tricks. You want to create a relation of your name to the type of work you are selling yourself to do. You want them to say “Sean” or “this guy” can do this type of work. You don’t want to show a thousand styles.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Non-stop. I shoot everyday. I don’t leave the house without my camera strapped around my back. I’m not doing it on purpose to keep myself fresh. I’m doing it because I love it so much.
How often are you shooting new work?
Pretty much all the time. If I’m not shooting paid work, I’m busy lining up pro-bono shoots for companies that I find interesting, working with new super creative art directors, working on collaborations with other artists, or shooting new material for stock with Getty. So my time is always busy. I’m not motivated by the money. I’m just motivated by shooting cool stuff all the time. :)
Over a decade later, Sean is now internationally known for creating influential, diverse award-winning campaigns for clients such as Ford, Chevy, Old Navy, Playstation, Wal-Mart and Hard Rock Café – and he’s always on time and within budgets, even when they seem unrealistic. He has also shot album covers for bands like Weezer and Tenacious D. Sean is universally recognized for his approachability with his subjects. From kids to celebrities, businessmen to bikers, everyone is at home with Sean’s larger-than-life personality, and that comfort level brings out the best in people.
Represented by Tom Zumpano 310-409-0249 firstname.lastname@example.org
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information. Follow her@SuzanneSease.