Remembering Surf & Fine Art Photographer Lucas Murnaghan
In episode #42, host Brett Stanley is joined by Antonio Lennert, life & business partner to Surf and Fine Art Photographer Lucas Murnaghan who tragically died in March this year of a rare cancer. As a way of memorialising Lucas they talk about his life and work, and how Antonio is keeping the memory alive by curating Lucas’ images – a lot of it previously unseen – into new gallery works and reissuing his book “Beneath the Surface”.
Brett’s chat with Antonio is a great introduction his interview with Lucas last year, which is included in today’s podcast episode. We hope you join with us in celebrating such a creative talent, and if you’d like to support Lucas’s family please consider purchasing his book or a print.
Follow Lucas: Website, Instagram, Twitter
Discuss the episode in our facebook group.
About Lucas Murnaghan – Surf & Fine Art Photographer
From Lucas’ instagram:
In the early hours of March 23, 2021 we said goodbye to Lucas.
It’s difficult to sum up the fullness and richness of who Lucas was here. He was a doting son, brother and uncle; a devoted doctor; an assured athlete; an entrepreneur; a loving partner; a loyal friend; and a bold and unabashed creative. As a doctor he was dedicated to the principle of ‘growing athletes’, working diligently with pediatric and adolescent patients to help them achieve their athletic goals. As an artist he was fearless in his physical and conceptual explorations of vulnerability, confidence, shame, pride, loneliness and solitude.
Lucas’ start in photography began by documenting the local surf scene on the Great Lakes. Always striving to master his craft, he was soon shooting classic surf breaks and surf competitions around the world, but his creative heart was in the fine art, underwater photography that he became known for.
In 2019, after a decade of practicing medicine, Lucas stepped into a second career as full-time co-owner and operator of ‘Surf the Greats’. Side-by-side with his partner Antonio, Lucas devoted himself to the surf community, creating a space for connection, in and out of the water.
In February 2021, while shooting big waves on Oahu’s North Shore, Lucas was diagnosed with a rare cholangiocarcinoma. He and Antonio returned to Toronto where he received treatment at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre before going home to be with his family.
Lucas was beautifully intricate and complex. He was a scientist and an artist, a doctor and a patient, an elite athlete who carried the burden of illness, extremely confident and daringly vulnerable. For many in his community he was an anchor point — a calm and comforting presence in an increasingly chaotic world. Without him we feel untethered.
In a personal essay, Lucas wrote, “I felt stronger and braver in water than on land, and when I was in it – I knew that no one could make me feel any different. The sounds of the world would go silent when I descended below the surface. Feelings of doubt and shame melt away and I am free to be whatever I want to be. I gained self confidence in what I could do there and wished that I could spend all my time in this alternate world. Even long after coming out and living openly and honestly, water has always held healing powers and brought me a sense of peace that can’t be found elsewhere.”
Dear Lucas, you lived fully and earnestly, always staying true to yourself by chasing your passions and challenging those around you to do the same. The water was your place of refuge, and it is where we will go to find solace from our grief. Thank you for your life. We know that you have now found your peace.
Remembering Lucas Murnaghan
Brett Stanley: [00:00:00] Welcome back to the underwater podcast. And this week, it’s a rather somber episode as I’m joined by Antonia Leonard. Life and business partner to surf and find out photographer, Lucas Marnee again, who died tragically in March this year of a rare cancer. As a way of memorializing Lucas, we talk about his life and work and how Antonio is keeping the memory alive by curating linkers as images, a lot of previously unseen into a new gallery work. And reissuing his book beneath the surface. My chat with Antonio is a great introduction to my interview with Lucas last year, which I’ve included in today’s podcast episode.
I hope you join with me in celebrating such a creative talent. And if you’d like to support Lucas’s family, please consider purchasing his book or a print. I’ll link to the gallery in the show notes. Okay. Let’s in
Antonio welcome to the underwater podcast.
Antonio Lennert: [00:00:52] thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Brett Stanley: [00:00:54] Great to have you here.
man. And, and, you know, I just want to first offer you the offer, my condolences for your loss of, of, of Lucas. You know, I leave only kind of really connected with them over the podcast last year. And, and I just found a really nice warm, open guy. And to hear if his passing was an absolute shock.
So I just want to, you know, kind of let you know that. That we were thinking about you guys. And, and, just want to kind of see how you’re feeling about things.
Antonio Lennert: [00:01:21] thank you so much, Brad. That means a lot to me and to the family and they really appreciate you reaching out to me to talk about this.
Brett Stanley: [00:01:28] it’s kind of something that I, I need to kind of talk about. I think you know, just for me, because it was, I kind of felt like my relationship with Lucas had just sort of began, you know, I was looking forward to, to kind of reconnecting with him and, and seeing how his work kind of grew and all that sort of stuff.
So, so connecting with you, I feel like, you know, he’s still here. He’s still in the room.
Antonio Lennert: [00:01:48] Yeah, absolutely. I, you know, he was my life partner and my business partner and I was there with him for most of his shoots. Like I saw his career evolve, you know, from, from the get go. And I was always there, like assisting him in any way I can. So, and then we’ve though, he’s not physically. Present anymore.
I also feel him, you know, around all the time. And I would say that half of who I am is Lucas. So I know his shoe around here with us.
Brett Stanley: [00:02:16] Yeah. Yeah, totally. So can you tell us how you guys, how you guys kinda met and how, how his art kind of started his love of photography?
Antonio Lennert: [00:02:25] yeah. Or the way we met was actually very unusual and it was pure chance. I would say I used to leaving San Diego, California. I’m from Brazil originally. I was there studying interactive media. And I was working at a retail shop. I worked at a, at a denim clothing shop and he was down there for a medical conference.
He was finishing his residency in Vancouver. Then he just came down for the conference. So he got bored at the conference and decided to go for a walk in downtown San Diego. In the Gaslamp area and he saw G-Star, which was the shop you work at. And he just walked in. I think it was like a way to say afternoon.
And the moment you walked in, like her eyes locked in a ripped, both kind of like, you know, started talking and. It was, you know, that, that dance, you know, the, you know, the, the salesperson and the, and the customer, he was super nice. He was really handsome. You know, I was a friendly, Brazilian surfer, living San Diego, going to school, you know, and kind of like wanting to make my sales.
We weren’t quite sure you know, of each other’s sexuality, you know we were actually interested in one another or not. So. He ended up trying on, you know, 20 pairs of jeans uh, often in pants, even the ones that I, you know, I ran out of things that I knew it would look good on him and he’s like, oh, do you have anything else?
And I’m like, well I do, but I don’t think it’s going to work. He’s like, oh, it’s okay. I’ll try it on anyways. So it was very clear that we were enjoying each other’s company. And I got talking, we got talking about surfing and he’s like, oh yeah, I used to surfing Australia. And this was sort of, there was like a big swell coming on the weekend and I’m like, oh, no way.
Like, there was a big swell coming this week and she want to get out and surf, I’ve got a few extra boards. I have some wetsuits, like, you know, you can come out of me and my buddies and he’s like, oh yeah, there’ll be awesome. You know, I’m, I’m totally down. Let’s do it. So he left the shop with two pairs of.
Jeans that he couldn’t afford. And my phone number and we had made plans to go surfing and um, you know, little did I know that he actually had tried surfing once in Bondai beach and had stood up on a 10 foot board with an instructor, pushing him on the wave. And here he had sign up to, you know, go out on the big swell with me and my buddies.
So he texted me a couple of hours later and we started, you know, texting back and forth and through text messages, we figure out exactly, you know while we’re both after. And we ended up going in and watching the sunset together and um, yeah. And that’s kind of like, huh? Our relationship started.
We didn’t start dating until like five months after that too. He came back to San Diego. But you know, one, he came back, we totally fell in love and we decided to, to start a life together. So I finished school and moved up to Vancouver with him, and then we travel for his uh, the additional training had to do, had to do a couple of fellowships in Melbourne, Australia, Dallas, Texas.
So I went with him and then he ended up taking a job in Toronto and that that’s how he ended up in Toronto.
Brett Stanley: [00:05:44] oh, right. Yeah. And then that’s where you’ve been ever since, obviously.
Antonio Lennert: [00:05:47] that is correct. So it’s been, it’s gonna be up to 12 years now since we moved to Toronto
Brett Stanley: [00:05:53] Wow. That’s amazing.
Antonio Lennert: [00:05:55] Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:05:55] and, so, I mean the surfing, I mean, that’s, it’s kind of, from what I gathered from my interview with him, that’s kind of where his photography started. I think, I think he was saying that he was you, you were out surfing and he was out sort of starting to take pictures of you and the other surfers in the in the bay there.
Antonio Lennert: [00:06:09] Yeah.
that’s correct. So I believe it was a trip that we took to Barbados sort of first time in Barbados, where I took him out surfing and he had a case for his iPhone and he surfed with me for a little bit and he’s like, oh, you know, I’m not doing great. I’m just going to bring my board to the car and I’m gonna.
Go get my camera and I’ll come. I’ll just take a couple photos. I was like, okay. So he went and got his phone and his case and came back and started taking some photos of me surfing in a couple of the other surfers. And he was so happy and new other, he was so like in his element and so comfortable.
He was such a strong swimmer and. We, when we got back to the car, he was showing me the photos and I just could see so much joy in his eyes. And I was just like, oh my God, this is so cool. Look at this photos that I got and had such a great time out there. I had more fun taking photos and surfing, and I was like, whoa, that’s amazing.
So I think we’ve found something for you to do. I surf. So he started, you know, that’s when we started surfing here on the great lakes as well. So he started to getting out here and getting the water and taking photos. And I looked into, I had a, you know, a DSLR camera for my design studio here. So I looked into a water housing case for him and we got him a case and he just started getting out to shoot our sessions whenever we got out to serve.
And that’s like, he became well known in the community. He was like the first surf photographer to getting the water here in our area. So people always got excited when Lucas was in the water because he would bring so much positivity and he was always, you know, like someone will go by, he’ll take a photo.
He was like, oh my God, next time, come closer to me. Or try this or try that. You know, and he, he’s such a positive person there. You know, people really embraced him as a, as a surf photographer here. And that’s kinda how things started you know, for. For his photography. So he did that for a few years and, you know, he went off and shot some surf competitions, like in Tofino in Canada, he shot a couple of WSL events you know, internationally, we travel all over the world to surf and, you know, I’ll get out to serve some heavier waves.
He will never be afraid of, you know, swimming out at pipeline in Hawaii or , or. No, some bigger, heavier stuff. He was always there, but no something was missing for him. Like he wasn’t getting, you know, the acceptance from the surf community. Now there’s just different places from the surfing industry in general you know, to, to be a part of that.
And it wasn’t until I had to undergo a spinal surgery that. That kept me out of the water for about six months that he actually started doing his editorial work. So basically it started like I had my surgery. I tell her, I was like, honestly, get out of our friends to shoot, you know, like, don’t let you know when they’re going.
You get out there. And he went a couple of times in his Zika. It was fun, but it’s not the same without chewing the water. So I don’t know. I’m just going to, in a way then to get better, to get back into all that. And he had just bought a new water, housing. He had changed, you know, the company that he used for his water housing.
He’s like, oh, I’m just gonna find a pool. And I’m going to find someone to, you know, just so that I can start practicing with my new housing. So he had a clinic as a surgeon at the varsity. He had a clinic as a surgeon at the university of Toronto. Where they took care of most of the varsity athletes you know, for the university of Toronto and professional hockey players and baseball players and whatnot.
So there were two. Teams there that they, he connected with. One was a do the university of Toronto swimming team. And at the university of Toronto, they had this uh, a water polo team they’re mad on a regular basis. So he reached out to, to both of them through there, his connections from the university, and they invited him to come shoot their practices.
So, yeah, so that’s kinda like how, how he went from surfing into the pool. So initially he was just like shooting, you know, water polo and kind of like the action of the sport. And he was getting some pretty interesting stuff. Then I think it was about like choo moms seem to my recovery. He had invited three of the.
The swimmers from the, the university’s varsity team to come and do a shoot with him at this beautiful pool. That was part of the university, but it’s a, it’s like a very historic pool with beautiful lighting. And he managed to reserve the whole pool for like two hours. So I was like starting to recover.
It was my first time back into a body of water. So he’s like, Hey, I want to do this shoot. Like, do you want to come with me and help me out? And I was like, sure. So we went there, we remove all Delaine ropes. We had like this 15 meter pool all to ourselves and the guys were super awesome. They already knew him like from the practices.
And he started doing a few things. And then I remember he called one of them. He’s like, Hey Mitch, can I just get like a, like, I want to do like Just like a hero, like, you know, captain of the swim team photo, like, you know, a pose that you would pose, you know, on land, but I want to try to sink you to the bottom of the pool.
So, you know, I’m going to set my frame and we’re going to let our air out. And we’re going to sink to the bottom of the pool and they just wanted you to cross your arms, look right into the camera and just stay calm. And they went down and I went down with him and, you know, I saw him click, click, click, click, and then he came back up and there was just like this big smile in his face.
And like his show me the photos, like, oh my God, that’s dunny. Like, I’ve never seen that before. And. It was that shoot that after that he started trying a few things with the other models or the other swimmers. And that’s, I remember it was that photo that blew up his Instagram, like when he had that on his Instagram and then will things just blow up and a whole new word, you know, open up to him.
And that’s basically how his photography practice, you know, change choruses and, you know, he just like. He barely even shot surfing after that. He only got out when the conditions are perfect or when we’re traveling in, like, it was super challenging to the waves were really big or we’re like on a boat on the now they’re reef.
Like, you know, the day to day stuff is like, yeah, not worth it anymore. I know I’m really passionate about this underwater tutorial work.
Brett Stanley: [00:13:12] Yeah.
I mean, and that’s kind of his iconic look now is, is that those pictures of male subjects under the water, with the kind of like uh, you know, there’s like a, a muscular sort of sporty sort of side to it, but it’s more artistic than. Then editorial, then your documentary.
Antonio Lennert: [00:13:28] Yeah, absolutely. I think what’s interesting about his work is uh, It’s it’s super physical, you know, to get those images, like, it requires so much from him from the subject, the connection between the two of them so much coaching in terms of, you know, mindfulness and, and just the breath holds and, you know and I watched you know, A lot of the shoots.
I just watched like that relationship develop. Like I did a lot of you know, I teach yoga and I teach mindfulness as well. So I did a lot of mindfulness work with him and with his subjects like, on the pool deck or, you know, outside of a body of water so that, you know, they could get into the.
You know, the, their mindset and Hey dude, a lot of the coaching for the breath work. And and I could, I could see that progression. So there was a lot of physicality to go down and to find that, you know, comfort, but somehow. In that process, he really managed to tap into the subjects’ vulnerability because he was a foreign environment for them.
It was something that he was helping them to feel comfortable with. And there was a certain moment in the shoots where they reached that. And that was when things, every time got really interesting. And I think what’s really interesting is uh, He managed to capture those, those beautiful men, you know, as strong man, but also he managed to capture like the most fragile side of them, you know, at the same time.
And it’s something that it’s central, it’s it’s desirable and it’s not just desirable by gay man. I think it’s, it’s desirable by anyone who looks at that photo. It’s not a, you know, it’s not sexual it’s it’s sensible. To me. I think it’s art. I think what he produce it’s, you know, it’s, it’s just beautiful creative, innovative art.
Brett Stanley: [00:15:19] absolutely. Yeah, I think like from what I found of his work was there is that, you know, there’s these amazing physiques, it’s a beautiful showcase of the male body. But as you say, it’s also this softness, this vulnerability in there where it’s where it’s not a sexual thing at all. It’s it’s, it’s, it’s just a person.
Being themselves underwater. And I think, you know, it takes a certain person to be able to get those sorts of shots from people, you know, someone who has some empathy and some, you know, some sort of emotional insight. And I think that was Lucas.
Antonio Lennert: [00:15:53] Yeah. I agree with you.
Brett Stanley: [00:15:54] so what’s happening now. So in terms of, of his work and his gallery, I know you’ve sort of taken on his legacy and, and kind of continuing with it. What, what’s the plan there? What’s what are you.
sort of doing with, with all his, his previous work?
Antonio Lennert: [00:16:09] Yeah, he has so much work that I just started going through, you know, everything that he has printed. And I just started organizing his hard drives, but yeah, he’s got about five hard drives that are Phil. He’s got about five hard drives that are full with orders shoots that he’s done over the last decade.
I would say that like, I, I honestly, like I was there for most of the shoots, but I have only seen a small percentage of the photos he got because his process usually was, he would shoot and then he would select, you know, like, He stopped 20. And those were the only ones that he would show me and, you know, I’ll give him some feedback and we’ll chat about the things that were working there were now working.
So I’m yet to see, you know, everything that he got. And so I I’m a graphic designer. Like I used to design publications and. You know, I come from a, from a design background and, you know, as you work as an art director, so I have slightly different editorial wide than he had. So I’m actually really excited to start going through.
His archives, because I know there will be some absolute gems there that he might have not seen it you know, at that time, or maybe, you know, his practice wasn’t developed to the point that if he had had the chance to go back, he would say, oh yeah, that’s, that’s an art piece right there. So, but that’s going to be a process.
It’s going to take time. I mean, no rush. Like this is something that I want to do for the rest of my life, you know, manages his studio and I’ll see what, you know, what time brings I’ve been working with one of his agents. Who’s a curator in France. He’s giving me some advice on, you know, how, how to do this properly.
And I’m just really excited to have that as part of my life. You know, speaking to you at the podcast about his life is something that is bringing me so much joy. I have given a couple of interviews to a couple magazines already about his work and. I, yeah, I don’t know. We’ll see what happens, but uh, I plan on continuing, you know managing his studio hopefully we can, you know, have new exhibitions of his work, you know, either if they’re a part of group shows or solo shows in different parts of the ward I would love to, to give continuity and to really, you know, make sure that his art legacy lives on.
I’m sure there’ll be plenty of content for a second book at some point when the time comes. So, yeah, I, you know, the sky’s the limit and I’m just excited to, you know I’ll always have debt as part of my life and my career. Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:19:06] I think that that kind of approach is so beautiful. You know, it, it is something on one hand. It’s something that, that us photographers rarely get, which is a chance for someone to sort of dive into our archives and, and, and look through the work that we’ve done. And sort of find the things that we just glossed over, you know, it’s this it’s like a second chance.
There was someone said this recently where some of the most amazing artwork in the world is sitting in photographers, reject folders, So having someone like you go back through Lucas’s work and sort of resect, all this sort of stuff, I think is a beautiful way to keep him to keep him alive.
It’s it’s beautiful.
Antonio Lennert: [00:19:42] Thanks Ben. Yeah, I agree. And and he’s done a pretty good job at like backing everything up. And so I’m just focusing right now on like, you know, organizing every fee and saving everything, you know, several different uh, ways in the cloud and hard drives so that I know that I’ll always have it, but you know, there is no rush for that.
That’s going to evolve, you know, as, as the time passes.
Brett Stanley: [00:20:06] absolutely Antonio, thank you so much. This has been an amazing insight into, into Lucas from, from the outside. So it’s, it’s really great to be able to showcase, you know, kind of his life and, to be able to sort of preface. Or what we’ve already got of him and sort of get excited about what’s to come from Lucas through you through Antonio.
Antonio Lennert: [00:20:27] Oh, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. I’m so grateful for you for, you know talking to me and for continuing, continuing to honor his work you know, after his passing and yeah, there is more to come and I’m sure you and I will connect again at some point. And I look forward to meeting you next time.
I mean, LA
Brett Stanley: [00:20:45] that would be amazing. Thanks Antonia.
Antonio Lennert: [00:20:47] thank you brother.
Brett Stanley: [00:20:48] If you haven’t listened to my interview of Lucas from last year, please stick around. His insights into underwater photography make for a great listen
Lucas, welcome to the show
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:01:29] Thanks, Brett. It’s a pleasure to be here or there or wherever we are.
Brett Stanley: [00:01:34] virtually. Yup. How was it up in Toronto? Are you actually on the water in Toronto? There?
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:01:39] I mean, Toronto is on the water. I’m not directly on the water. but, uh, uh, yeah, it’s still cool here. I mean, April is not yet summer or spring. I should say some buds are starting to come out, but, uh, no, it’s still, it’s still chilly. We even had some flakes, uh, overnight and some blowing snow today.
Brett Stanley: [00:01:54] Oh, nice. So it’s kind of still Crispin kind of lively up there.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:01:58] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, considering our current world situation, it’s not the worst time of year to have to spend extra time inside.
Brett Stanley: [00:02:05] I’m totally. Yeah. I’m, I’m in California in LA and, uh, it’s been quarantined weather for me. So it’s been pretty much gray and raining,
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:02:12] Okay. That’s nice that it’s cooperating.
Brett Stanley: [00:02:15] Yeah, exactly. Um, how is the quarantine and the kind of COVID situation up there? Are you, are you stuck in doors? Is that Toronto should kind of lock on lockdown or what’s the situation.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:02:25] Yeah, that’s a, that’s a great question. And it’s always hard to, to, to, um, compare and contrast other people’s, you know, kind of, uh, what it feels like for them versus what it feels like here. I mean, I’d say Canada has been. Under some kind of modification now for about four weeks. And though it’s been, each province has been doing it a little bit differently.
There, there has been. Some kind of a cohesive plan from the, you know, from the federal level. you know, schools are closed. Uh, nonessential businesses are closed. People are being certainly strongly encouraged to spend as much time inside as possible. People are allowed to go out if they wanted to go for a walk, if they wanted to obviously go get groceries, that kind of thing.
But. Um, yeah, I know nobody who’s is, um, uh, considered essential. Um, all those people are, are really being asked to just stay, put.
Brett Stanley: [00:03:15] Yeah. So is it quite quiet in the city there at the moment?
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:03:18] Yeah, it’s, um, it’s kind of nice in some ways. Um, I feel like now that we’re kind of entering our fourth week, people are kind of taking their foot off the gas a little bit. Like we were driving today to drop off a couple, uh, online orders from our shop. And, uh, uh, it just seemed to be a few more people out and about, I think it’s just, you know, people can’t stay put for too long.
Brett Stanley: [00:03:38] Yeah. I mean, once you get to that ending screen of Netflix where you’ve watched the entire thing,
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:03:42] That’s right?
Brett Stanley: [00:03:43] you have to leave the house.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:03:44] Yes. I used to, when I was a kid, I used to get excited when I finished video games. But yeah, when I realized that we’d finished Netflix, that, uh, that wasn’t as satisfying.
Brett Stanley: [00:03:51] Yeah, that’s right. I don’t know if there was a big boss at the end of that or not. Yeah. Um, so how has, has the quarantine, uh, restricted you working at all or has it kind of, kind of
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:04:01] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’m, I think, you know, the underwater photography for each of us plays a. Uh, you know, a different role in our lives. It is a, a, um, it is a, a component of what I do. It is certainly something that I do professionally and something that I enjoy, um, you know, some, some modicum of success with, but it isn’t.
It isn’t my lifeblood. It, isn’t the thing that if, you know, I had to stop, um, uh, that I have to figure out, you know, how I’m going to, uh, to pay the mortgage or pay the rent. We have lots of other things on the go. We have a little small business here, so that’s where we’ve been focusing our energy. So, no, but at the same time, I can’t see any practical way that I would be shooting right now.
Most of my, my work right now would be either in indoor pools, which are all closed or I’d be traveling to shoot, uh, which is also not a viable option. So yeah, I think, um, I haven’t been shooting and I don’t think I could be shooting over the last month.
Brett Stanley: [00:04:58] Right. Is there other things in, I know you’ve got the, you’ve got your store and you’ve got some other kind of revenue streams. Is there photography work that you could be doing like post-production or, or preplanning any, any shoots that might be coming up?
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:05:10] yeah, I’m, I’m trying to, uh, use it. Uh, I’ve had a bit of a bumpy year health wise and, and this it’s funny, I was just kind of coming out of that as this happened, uh, to the rest of the world. So it was like, I felt like I was just gaining a little bit of steam and then the bottom dropped out. But, uh, I mean, there’s no good time for a pandemic.
So I, I can’t imagine that. It’s hard to feel too personally slighted by it. Um, So, yeah, I’d say I was on a bit of a ramp back up stage and starting to find a little bit of inspiration, a little bit of, um, um, creative juices starting to flow. And so I’ve tried to use this as a yeah. As a, as a planning, a moment.
I’ve spent a lot of time going back and looking at earlier work and, uh, interestingly seeing. My own stuff through a different set of eyes, because I think every, you know, my world has shifted as has everyone. So it’s been a really fun time to go back through some hard drives and look at some things. And, and either images that I didn’t like before I now like, or images that I saw in a certain way before I now interpret completely differently.
And that’s been, um, I guess, kind of a, uh, an interesting retrospective to do and has. Fueled some ideas moving forward.
Brett Stanley: [00:06:28] Oh, that’s great. I think it’s always good to go back through your work, even if you get to see how you’ve evolved over, over a certain amount of time. And I think this whole COVID thing is doing that too. A lot of us photographers, or even just creatives in general, I think this is a, like a, someone’s hit the pause button for us and we have to kind of make the most of this time.
And if we don’t come out of this, uh, kind of changed in some way. I think it’s almost. Not been worth the time sitting around, I guess.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:06:56] Yeah, I think that’s a really good way of saying it. I mean, it’s, it’s hard to say that it would be a wasted opportunity, but there, there is really. It is an opportunity to go back and do some things that you’ve been meaning to do. And, you know, I’ve always known that, you know, going back and looking through, you know, previous work was an important part yeah.
Of, um, anyone’s process and certainly been advised that it’s something that I should do, but I could never do it without. Just kind of getting down on myself and looking at it and being like, she’s, you didn’t know what you were doing here, or look what you did with that. And boy, wouldn’t it be nice if you’d known then what you know now?
Um, but I think I’m being a little, a little, a kinder to myself, a little gentler And maybe that’s just an, uh, it’s a time for empathy, outwards. And maybe that empathy is kind of, I’m turning it on myself a little bit too, and being a little kinder with, with what I’m looking at and how I’m feeling about it.
Brett Stanley: [00:07:47] Oh that, yeah, that’s really interesting. Like kind of giving yourself a bit of a pass, um,
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:07:50] Yeah. Yeah. I think we have to right now. I mean, I think if you’re hard on yourself now, I, it’s hard to make it through the day. So I think, uh, yeah, I think as an artist, it’s an interesting time to, uh, to use that some of those positive energies, uh, towards, uh, you know, your own, your own work or your own, um, uh, trajectory.
Brett Stanley: [00:08:10] Yeah, it’s interesting. I like to seeing on social media and kind of Facebook and stuff that not even just, not even just photographers, but people in general who are kind of taking this time to, you know, either learn a new skill or they’re, you know, they’re doing their yoga every day or they’re like baking, it seems like everyone’s kind of being forced into.
Kind of looking after their lives a little bit more than just the usual grind of getting up and doing that same thing.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:08:37] Yeah, I think it definitely, um, I think I’ve seen some, you know, quarantine bingo cards where you can tick off all of the things, the stations that may have ascended they’re moving through, including. You know, cleaning out junk drawers and baking bread and, uh, um, uh, doing yoga and, um, all this kind of things that you, you said that you you’d like to have more time for.
Um, And, uh, yeah, and I think trying to figure what to do with that, you know, professionally, and I’ve seen, I’ve watched some other photographers, you know, really crank up their, um, you know, their, their asked for, uh, you know, Hey, I’ve got these prints. I really like you to buy them. Um, this would be a really good time to, to support artists.
Um, but I think it’s really hard because. You know, everyone is on a different arc with this. And, um, I avoid using the word curve because that kind of implies, you know, something’s statistical, um, or our, um, epidemiology or public health. Um, but you know, each of us are on our own. Arc in terms of our handling of this, our stages, grief hour, uh, however you want on a call it, and you don’t know where someone else is on their arc.
And, and it’s funny how there’s, there’s certain asks that I received or certain emails or even ads that have popped up. That just seems so tone deaf or so, um, you know, bordering on inappropriate and then another week later I’m like, Oh, I see what they’re doing. That’s totally cool. Cool. And they were doing the same thing.
I just, I wasn’t ready to receive it, uh, in the way that they thought they were putting it out, uh, the, you know, the week prior. And so I think as artists, um, it’s, it’s hard to kind of say, Oh yeah, support me. Uh, when. Yeah, everybody needs support right now. There’s not a, there’s not a single person who isn’t affected by this in some way, not everyone is, is, uh, financially affected because lots of people are still working.
Some businesses in some strange way are benefiting from this. Uh, if they are in the, you know, telecommunications or, or, um, uh, software that, you know, that actually is helping a lot of these kinds of things, maybe similar to what we’re doing right now. Right. Um, but, uh, yeah, I think everyone is, um, you know, everyone’s taken a hit here.
Brett Stanley: [00:10:41] Oh decidedly. Yeah. Well, let, let’s just kind of, let’s take it back a bit. Let’s, let’s go back to what you were saying about looking back through your old work. And can you give us a kind of an idea how you started in underwater, what was your trajectory there? What was your arc?
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:10:54] yeah, sure. Um, so I started, uh, My photography really started when I got into surf photography. I really, I had a camera when I was a kid and, and, um, you know, did all the usual things and, but never fancied myself as, as really knowing much about anything and, uh, somewhere around. Instagram kind of started around the same time as I started to get interested in taking pictures from the water.
So in water surface, as opposed to that long lens on the beach, but actually bobbing around, out there with the housing and, and that’s, you know, I actually learned how to take proper photographs. Know, from the water and, and any dry land photography that I’ve done since then, it’s kind of with the lessons that I’ve learned from the water.
And I think it’s kind of. It’s kind of a backwards way to go about it, but it’s a, um, it’s an interesting, uh, medium to, to start in. And, and I, I really enjoyed, uh, surf photography. I, uh, you know, was my, my partner is a, is a keen surfer and it was a way for us to kind of meet. Uh, on a common ground because I could never keep up with him, uh, as a surfer, I just wasn’t any good.
And so it turned out that I really enjoy taking photographs of either him surfing or other surfing or big days. Uh, then we would have a shared. Um, uh, kind of, yeah, shared interest in a shared level of desire, you know, when it was crowded or when it was big, those would be days that I would shy away and I would want to have, you know, just really, you know, beginner waves was nobody else out there.
And that was kind of boring for him. Uh, and so yeah, it, it allowed us to kind of align a little bit better and, and I got, you know, I was lucky to start taking some, some photos here on the, on the great lakes, which is a whole kind of subculture of surfing, which is, uh, you know, surfing with a wind swell here on Lake Ontario and they cure on.
Brett Stanley: [00:12:48] Yeah. mean, I was going to ask you about that. Cause, cause I was looking, my geography is terrible. So I looked up with trail Toronto is knowing that you own like kind of a surf
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:12:57] yeah, yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:12:58] and I’m like, hang on, you’re on a Lake. does the surfing happen?
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:13:02] Yeah, it’s a funny thing, you know, Lake surfing. So it’s, you know, most, most swell that happens. Uh, you know, it was related to storms that are far, far away, and it leads to this ground swell that, you know, travels thousands of miles. And that’s where you get the pristine waves that hit the North shore Hawaii and the.
In the, um, you know, in the wintertime, um, if you get a windy enough day on a big enough Lake yeah. Can, you know, much like a snowball rolling down a Hill as it crosses the Lake, it can build up momentum to the point that we get quite, quite impressive. Surfable waves in the right spot at the right time.
And, um, yeah, it’s a whole, you know, if, if surf surfers already missing. That’s, you know, this is definitely, you know, misfits of a misfit sport. Um, and, uh, we just, and, and, and we get to kind of, uh, in that we started a, a surf company and shop here that we’re, there’s somewhat of a, you know, a, a meeting place or a community hub, uh, for, uh, for what is a pretty, pretty amazing community.
Brett Stanley: [00:14:00] Yeah. I mean, that sounds incredible that you’re on a Lake and you own a surf shop. Um,
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:14:05] yeah, it’s either.
Brett Stanley: [00:14:06] is this culture around it as well.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:14:08] Yeah. It’s either a very bad idea or a very good idea. It’s probably nowhere in between. Um, and, uh, the jury’s probably still out, but it’s um, but yeah, it was, it was through that, that I was able to, uh, maybe progress with my, uh, photography a little bit faster because there was a pretty. A ready audience that was interested there.
Weren’t other photographers in the water because, you know, there weren’t that many surfers in the water. So I wasn’t there, you know, what pipe trying to line up behind six or seven established professional photographers, trying to get a shot. I, people were happy cause I was the only guy that had a housing that could jump and was willing to jump into like, you know, when it was as cold as it is when we surf here.
Um, Oh, I mean, we, we surf here right through the winter, so it’ll be, it’ll be below freezing and we’ll be in the water. Um, uh, the nice thing is as long as it’s, you know, as long as the water is liquid, you know, it’s at least above freezing. So, but we’ll, we’ll be in the water when it’s, you know, uh, in Celsius, uh, would be, you know, two or three degrees.
Um, so in Fahrenheit, I guess that would be in the thirties. So it’s pretty. Um, it’s a pretty wild concept. Um, so have you ever seen those kind of ice beards or, you know, icicles hanging down off people’s faces? That’s, that’s usually a Lake surfer, um, um, nine times out of 10. Um, but, uh, and I kind of, so I, I cut my teeth a little bit on, on the, on Lake.
Surf photography. And then when I got to the ocean, I was like, well, this is, this is much nicer. This is much warmer. Um, the waves are much bigger. Uh, the lighting’s much better because we’re surfing on days where the sun’s actually out. Um, we’re surfing on days where. Did this, you know, the day isn’t actually just, you know, eight hours long, like it is you’re here.
Uh, so, um, you know, water clarity was up. The ability of surfers went up, they stopped wearing wetsuits, you know, so they were a bit more photogenic cause they didn’t look like all of these anonymous penguins. Yeah. Surfing coal, you know, photographing cold water surfers can do. And that, that.
Brett Stanley: [00:16:01] Neoprene
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:16:02] Yeah, it’s really, and that’s a, if you’re trying to grab focus, uh, somebody dressed in all black, um, and moving on a overcast day, uh, through murky water.
Um, my hit rate was not, was not very high. Uh, when I was starting out, I am very comfortable saying. Um, but yeah, I got, I got just, you know, start shooting in other parts of the world. So, you know, took the, you know, the, what I had learned, two trips to New Zealand and Australia to, uh, resil, to California, to Hawaii, to, um, uh, Barbados, uh, you know, uh, among a few other places.
And that’s where I started to kind of get to shoot some, some bigger waves, some better surfers and, and it’s still not really. No one was particularly interested in my work really at that time, but I was at least being, you know, physically challenged by it and being able to, you know, be in places that I never imagined I would, I would be
Brett Stanley: [00:16:54] And were they personal trips or was that something to do with your work? Or how did that work?
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:16:59] Yeah. I mean, that was, those were really personal trips at that time. I mean, we were starting this surf brand and we had kind of ideas about how these would. You know, work together and certainly the photography was serving that purpose, but it was by no, it was certainly wasn’t making any money and they weren’t, um, it wasn’t funding any of the equipment that I was buying or anything like that.
It was just, you know, I just figured, you know what, I was really conflicted about this at the beginning with are photography because you sometimes would get these. Either kind of funny looks or you’d get somebody to just ask you, ask you kind of directly. They’re like, well, like, why are you out here? Like, like, is anyone paying you to do this?
And I used to get really, um, uh, insecure about that. I would just be like, yeah, why am I out here? I mean, this is, is this weird that I’m out here. Right? And then one day I was just like, well, W w why would I just ask the surfer the same question? Like why, why are you here? Is anyone paying you to be out here?
Did anyone pay, did anyone pay for your flight to come here to anybody pay for your board? Um, you seem to be enjoying yourself. I’m, I’m enjoying myself taking photos, so maybe it’s okay to sink a little money into a hobby, um, and, and go places. I mean, if people can go on ski trips or golf trips or, um, you know, other things like that, I mean, why couldn’t I go on photography trips?
Um, yeah. And, and, and that’s how I had to reconcile it myself. But, uh, I mean, it was, it was funny that I, there was a little moment where I was like, well, yeah, what. This is weird. Why am I out here? And then I was like, no, no, this is okay. I’m okay.
Brett Stanley: [00:18:23] And so what sort of timeframe are we talking? How long ago was this?
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:18:26] Uh, that would have been, uh, you know, for a span of about kind of three years, about three years ago. So six years ago for about kind of three years, I was doing that kind of, that kind of stuff.
Brett Stanley: [00:18:38] Right. Yeah. And so then where did it go from there? Cause I mean, you’re, to me you’re known
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:18:43] Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:18:45] male, athletic kind of art sort of shots.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:18:48] Yeah, I guess.
Brett Stanley: [00:18:49] from Smith to that?
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:18:50] Yeah, I guess it’s a, um, who was it? I think it might’ve been miles Davis or another great musician said it took them a long time to figure out how to play. Like himself or to, you know, to play the song his way or something like that. And I, I really like, he worded it much better than that, but I heard it the other day and I kind of said, yeah, but we try as we try to take photos, like other people, you know, we try to take a, you see something and you’re like, Oh, I should try to take a photo like that.
Or. I was trying to get my work, um, you know, accepted by them, you know, a magazine or maybe a brand would be interested and, and, uh, I even had a chance to go shoot, you know, a couple of WSL, um, you know, pro competitions down in Barbados and I, and I, and I just was like, I wasn’t. I wasn’t getting any love, you know, it was, it was kind of like this unrequited desire for, for, um, for validation or acceptance.
And, and yeah, I really found myself trying to take photos that I thought other people wanted to see. And, um, in retrospect, you know, if, if I was giving advice to myself three years ago, I would say, well, you know, that’s never going to work. Like, why would you be doing that? But at the time, I didn’t know any better.
And it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. Um, I, it was, I had just actually come back from Barbados shooting, the super bowl, you know, at a inappro competition. It was November. And, um, It was, I can’t remember why it was well, actually it was my, my partner was going to be having, um, uh, elective back surgery, like nothing too.
Uh, you know, it’s still back surgery, but nothing too serious. Uh, but I knew we were going to be grounded for a little bit. Like we weren’t going anywhere. We weren’t going on any big trips. Uh, and I just wanted, and I was kind of coming to this realization that I, as a, you know, surf photographer in Toronto.
I was unlikely to ever reach any level with this, that I was going to be happy with. You know, I’m a pretty competitive guy. I’m pretty goal driven in other aspects of my life. And so I’m sure there was a part of me that was like, you know, you’ve really got to settle for. Kind of just being sort of okay at this.
Um, and if you can’t ever have access to the best conditions, the best light, um, uh, the best writers, uh, uh, I just wasn’t feeling like I was kind of, you know, creating what I wanted to be creating and.
Brett Stanley: [00:21:11] you weren’t in the right environment to, to be your best.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:21:14] Yeah, I guess so. And, and so I kind of just started to get creative and thought like, well, how could I, um, basically, how could I shoot more? You know, I just wanted to, I just loved being in the water. I mean, it was such a, I mean, we, that’s a common thread I’m sure for. For all of us is that that’s my happy place.
I mean, when I’m in the water, I go back to all the things I felt when I was a kid, I feel creative. I feel it’s just, it’s on all, on all levels. They can’t even be overstated. How, how much that’s the. You know, that’s the driver for me is just being out there shooting or, and now under there shooting is, um, is why I do it.
And, and the, the product is, is a, um, it’s almost a byproduct because the, the actual, um, satisfaction and joy comes from the process of, of the gathering, not in the, um, in what is gathered. Um, so.
Brett Stanley: [00:22:03] that, that, that resulting photo is, is kind of secondary to the experience
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:22:07] Yeah. I mean, yeah. And I would say probably more so in the beginning, because maybe what I was actually creating, wasn’t living up to my mind’s eye, but I also, I don’t think I really had a, a mind’s eye. I don’t think I really, and, and that was, you know, looking back, I didn’t have an image in mind that I was trying to capture.
I was just. Capturing what was happening. I was, I was a, you know, a documentarian. I was a, um, uh, a bit of a bystander that just happened, you know, maybe I was capturing what was happening in front of me, but I wasn’t going out there that day and saying, Oh, okay. I see. So the sun is going to be rising here.
And I know that this water will do this. And I know if I shoot, you know, at this F stop, then that’s going to. The sun’s going to flare on this, but you know, these are the things that I know now, but I wasn’t, and, and, and.
Brett Stanley: [00:22:58] being reactive rather
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:22:59] Yeah, reactive versus being proactive in, in terms of that. And so, uh, you know, back to your original, um, uh, you know, kind of questioning about how, you know, where it shifted, I would say, you know, that, that winter, I just wanted to shoot more.
And so I, I reached out to, I think in one day I reached out to two different groups. I reached out to, um, the head coach of our university. A swim team here in Toronto and, um, uh, a, uh, LGBT, um, uh, water polo club that I had actually, you know, played a few games with or had, uh, you know, under some practices a couple of years ago is I used to play Waterpool, uh, back in high school and just, just said to both of them, Hey, Here’s some of my surf stuff.
I’d love to come and take some photos of you guys, you know, in practice sometime. Would that be okay? And. You know, within 24 hours, both of them had gotten back to me with an enthusiastic. Yes. And, uh, so there, I think three days later I was, you know, in one practice and then in the other, and that’s, that’s where it shifted into the pool and that’s where it shifted.
He, but even there, I was still doing over unders I was, I didn’t have the shots in mind yet. It was just like, Whoa. And then I kind of slipped under water and I started to go, Oh, Oh, this is cool. I’ll look what a fish eye does underwater. Oh, look what, look what a rectilinear wide angle lens does underwater look, look at these.
Brett Stanley: [00:24:23] point you hadn’t even really gone fully under, you were still kind of at the surface.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:24:28] Yeah. I mean, I didn’t know what I was, you know, I still, uh, cause really I hadn’t done any underwater stuff with any of my surf because I had never been in a, um, uh, you know, Indonesia or Fiji or somebody or even Hawaii, you know, in, in good, clear, yeah. And good clear water. So every shot I took under water just looked.
You know, cloudy and, and, um, you know, it may have given a cool distortion to the bottom half of the frame, but it wasn’t, it was never your, what we would consider to be a good underwater photo by hour. Um, you know, current, or at least I’d say for myself by my current standards. Um, so yeah, so it was, it was the pool that, that, um, uh, and it was those two sports teams that, that helped me move from kind of.
Above water, uh, to underwater.
Brett Stanley: [00:25:13] And did you find that you were still, when you’re dealing with those teams, were you still kind of documentarian or were you starting to kind of control the, the action as well? Like were you starting to direct.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:25:26] Yeah, that’s an excellent question, Brett. Uh, it was, uh, certainly for the first, you know, three or four. That’s probably what I did was kind of maybe three practices with each of them. And, um, it was very much capturing what was that going on? Um, partly because I was trying to be a fly on the wall and not interfere with.
Their practice. And, you know, this was a competitive swim team that had a couple of Olympians on their, on their roster. And I didn’t, you know, it wasn’t for me to say, uh, even though I had a head coach that was like, what you, what do you need them to do? Do you, do you want it, should we do some stuff off the blocks?
Do you want them all to go in at the same time? Um, you know, and I was just like, Oh, I don’t know. Um, and I was. Yeah, just clumsily trying to just not screw up, um, and figure out how to stay down, how to, you know, cause I hadn’t worn a weight before, when I was doing the stuff, uh, above, because the idea of when you’re doing surf photography is to not go underwater.
You know, you try to stay on the surface. Um, so this was, yeah, this was a whole different kind of, it’s like, Oh, hang on. I have to weight myself to get down there. Um, and um, So, yeah, it was doing that and yeah, something in my head was like, yeah, this is cool, but I’m still just taking pictures of swimmers, swimming.
I’m taking pictures of water, polo players playing water polo. Uh, this is, this is, I’m not creating anything. I’m just, but once again, I’m capturing and I’m getting, I’m getting some cool angles, like I’m okay. I’m seeing this. I’m showing people this world from our perspective, they perhaps haven’t seen it before.
But it wasn’t, there was nothing, there was nothing emotional about it. There was, when I look back at those images, I don’t go, Ooh. Um, I, I, maybe some that, that, uh, You know, more, the architecture of the pool was captured and the swimmers were really, um, uh, moved to minor characters in the frame. I think those shots, when it was swimmers, I looked back at those and I really liked them, but any kind of enclosed shot of someone swimming from an underwater perspective, a bit of an awkward angle, um, at least to my aesthetic and to my eye.
Uh, and it was Al it was only. You know, when I, uh, I say got up the nerve, because that’s what it took, uh, back then, uh, to say to you, no one, yeah. The swimmers that I thought might say yes, I said, Hey, if I could. If I could find a pool where like, it’s just you and I and the pool, and we can start to kind of try some stuff that isn’t just in practice.
Would you like, would you want to try that? Uh, and, and I was looking back, it’s so funny about how, how afraid I was to ask that question. And I, I kind of understand now why I was so afraid, but it was, um, It was, it’s funny to think how easy it is to ask that question now and how hard it was then.
Brett Stanley: [00:28:07] And was that just because of a confidence in your own, in your own work?
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:28:10] Um, yeah, I think it was, I think it was probably more than that. I think it was, you know, not knowing what it was that I wanted to create. And even looking back at that first day shooting with him, you know, all we did was take pictures of him swimming in an empty pool, but at least. At least we didn’t have those distracting elements, like lane ropes or somebody else with a flutter board or mismatching, you know, bathing suits or other people in the frame or those kinds of things.
So, I mean, it was, it was becoming more pure in that sense. Um, but I, to be honest, it was because I was having to reconcile it. Well, the fact that I thought that he looked really good underwater. Like I thought he looked really beautiful. And I, and I, that was my own personal, you know, as a gay man, I was like, Oh, I’m a bit, you know, not conflicted, but I’m like, okay.
But yeah, is it okay for me to want to photograph Tim him? Because I know that what he looks like and he looks good. Um, and can I combine that with my, you know, professional. Life outside of that, which for me is, is being a doctor and working at a hospital. And the other part of that is, is, you know, taking photos and kind of saying, you know, what, what is the role of somebody like that in that situation?
So that was a real, Mmm Mmm. Okay. Moment of reckoning or reconciliation or, or something that I had to process in order to figure out. The kind of photography that I, that I now, um, you know, feel so comfortable doing.
Brett Stanley: [00:29:38] And so, I mean, that’s a very interesting point where your, where your, you know, you’re, you’re a gay man and you’re taking pictures of, of, you know, good looking men under the water and how that changes into your private life or into your, you know, your working life. Do you think there’s a, do you think there’s a disconnect or a correlation with, with society in terms of men taking pictures of beautiful women and men taking pictures of beautiful men? Is there some kind of disconnect there?
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:30:07] Yeah. I mean, this is a really interesting area and one that I’m not sure that I fully have my head wrapped around, but.
I, you know, I have, I have friends that have, you know, one of my close friends actually said something about, we were talking about my work and he’s been super supportive. He’s one of the first people that I, um, that I shot and got to kind of, uh, you know, try saying, well, what if you do this? What if you do that?
And he was just, he was a gamer. He was like, yeah, sure. Well, we’ll try that. Um, so I would say he was one of my early, you know, models or subjects, um, But even a year later, or two years later, you know, when it was coming to, you know, putting out my work and, um, you know, putting up a show and putting out a book, he, he talked to, he said something about my work being gay, you know, like that the photography was gay. And then I kind of was, I kind of said, well, is the photography game, like, are the images gay? Like.
Brett Stanley: [00:30:58] is a guy just because I’m
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:31:00] Yeah. And so if a woman was taking a picture of a woman, would that, would that art be considered, you know, lesbian? It is, is it, but the people said, Oh, but no, but she’s married. So she’s, she’s straight. So the work’s not lesbian.
It’s like, well, hang on a second. What is it that we’re, you know, what are we talking about? Like, is it we’re really, we’re talking about the we’re placing men in a. A unconventional, um, position, both in the sense that they’re in an underwater environment, which obviously is foreign to a lot of the, um, uh, poses and, and, and, uh, direction that I’m giving them.
But I’m also trying to tap into, um, a, a softer side, a level of vulnerability, a, um, um, maybe some roles that are. Typically considered, you know, masculine or heteronormative, but, um, you know, if my model’s straight and the photographer’s gay and it’s just one guy in a photo, is it a, is it a gay photograph?
Is it, you know? Uh, but that was, I mean, that’s a whole other, you know, that’s probably a whole other podcast, but I just, I find that very, um, Very interesting where someone’s work is placed based on what you know, or you think you know about the artist. Um, even if the work itself doesn’t necessarily go there.
Um, because I I’m very cognizant of that line with my. Uh, as, as I’m sure many of us are who do a lot of, uh, work where the model might be new semi nude, um, or some line in between. It’s very easy to, uh, even when you go through your shots, you kind of look at something and you’re like, Ooh, like that, that’s not, that’s crossed that line and we didn’t try to cross that line, but there’s just something about that pose.
That’s a little more. Let’s maybe we’ll use the word lurid or, or, um, it’s more erotic than it is, uh, emotional and we’re, we’re going to kind of say that’s a, we’re not going to keep that one. We’re going to go more for this one where there’s something being a little bit held back and that’s where. And that’s where my mind is.
Right? Like that’s when I, well, that’s the one I dance around and somebody else is going to say, Oh no, my line’s over here. Or no, I don’t have a line or no, I can’t, I can’t even get anywhere close to, um, uh, to that other image. And, and maybe that’s where I was back then is I as a gay man? Could I ask this attractive male model who was either gay or straight?
I didn’t know. Um, if he was willing to. Do a photo shoot with me where I was choosing him to do that photo shoot, because I knew that he was aesthetically pleasing and that’s. It’s and maybe it’s cause I didn’t, I haven’t come at this. You know, my, like I said, all my training was, was in, you know, sciences and medical school and, and no one, I wasn’t brought up in this idea of, you know, fashion photography or, or other, even other than realms where the aesthetics of the individual were.
That was the reason everybody was there. I mean, of course, like that’s why a model is a model. That’s why this is on the cover. That’s why we’re doing this. That’s why we’re doing that. Um, But I was having to reconcile that coming from a different, maybe a different kind of Headspace.
Brett Stanley: [00:34:08] Oh, totally. And I think what you’re saying is these are questions that photographers are asking themselves. I think when in their early days, if they start doing these kinds of, um, you know, more art, more nude kind of photography, and regardless of the, the subjects kind of sexual orientation or the photographer’s sexual orientation, I think these questions.
Need to be asked of yourself, is this okay? Am I, is this going to cross a line? And if that line is there, is it just my line or is it a line that everyone shouldn’t cross?
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:34:45] Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:34:46] a universal kind of kind of thing. And regardless of whether you’re shooting with men or with women, I think that’s still a question that should, should be coming up.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:34:55] Oh, no. Absolutely. And, and, you know, I, you know, when I shot my first nude subject, it was, it was a funny situation because we were, um, I think having lunch, uh, and we realized we were staying at the same. A hotel in Palm Springs, which just happened to be a clothing optional, um, uh, uh, hotel. And I said, Oh, but it’s got a great pool.
You know, let’s do a photo shoot, but we didn’t, it wasn’t, we didn’t say like, I wasn’t even, I wasn’t even thinking I literally had shot like this swimmer, you know, at the university, like five days before this, I hadn’t, I hadn’t figured out what the hell I was doing yet. And he just like drops his, his shorts and jumps in the.
In the pool. And I was like, Oh, I guess this is what we’re doing. Okay. I guess I’ll just keep shooting. I, and he kind of gave, he had done a lot of photo shoots. He was very comfortable and he kind of told me what his parameters were. And I was like, okay. Um, but now I’m like, okay, what the hell do I do with these photos?
Like, I’m like, am I going to post it? You know, just a butt cheek. Right. But I’m like, can I post a butt cheek? Like, can I do that? And what, yeah, that was a whole, yeah, that was, uh, an interesting looking back. It seems comical. Um, but uh, at the time it certainly didn’t feel like it
Brett Stanley: [00:36:06] But I think that’s a very interesting thing because, because looking at your work now, you’re, you’re, you’re obviously not shy of shooting that sort of, uh, that style of photography. How long did it sort of take you to kind of realize that posting a picture of a, of a butt cheek was fine.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:36:20] Yeah, I’d probably just posting the first picture of the butt cheek, you know, and then kind of going, cause I’m not approved about nudity, you know, myself and I, I don’t think growing up. I was taught to be overly prudish about it. We definitely, it was a very much like a, we weren’t going to, you know, um, you know, nudist colony or, or, uh, clothing optional or that kind of thing.
But the idea of just like quickly changing your shorts, you know, behind a tree was kind of, yeah, that’s what we did. And maybe that’s cause you had, you know, we grew up. There was four kids and it was just too much of a hassle to, to be overly precious about these things. But yeah, I’ve, I’ve never kind of felt too, too hung up about my own body or about other people’s bodies.
Um, but it was more the, um, yeah, I was really, I felt like the moment I did that, I was putting myself out there as much as an artist as, as he was. As a subject. Um, I wasn’t nude, but I was saying something about not necessarily my sexuality, but what I was, where I was willing to go with my work and I was ready for whatever assumptions or interpretations that somebody wanted to make about that.
And that looking back was a, was a very big step.
Brett Stanley: [00:37:34] Oh yeah, definitely. I think. And so along those kinds of lines, as a photographer myself, I work a lot with women. Um, it’s not particularly by choice. It’s just because the style of work that I do, I think is more, uh, more interesting to women. It’s more fantasy, it’s more kind of, you know, um, fantastical sort of stuff.
So when I do get to work with males, I don’t really know how to direct them. They it’s a very different style of direction. From sh from shooting with a women, with a woman. I know what, what a woman looks good doing. Whereas a man and I am, I am one. I should know how men look. I’m very, not very confident in knowing how to direct a male to pose.
Do you think that that’s something that came along for you or is it something you always already knew?
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:38:23] Yeah, that’s it. That’s a really good question. I guess it’s where. I’m using my own personal aesthetic, my own personal assessment of what I think, I think looks good. And sometimes that, as it’s, as in that looks, looks good as the, and that’s well, composed is, is, you know, his face doesn’t look strained. I like his, his hand position.
I like how all that kind of stuff. But then there’s the other part of me. That’s just like, Oh, that actually shows. That shows him off. Well, no, not necessarily. one of my least favorite subjects or my least favorite categories of subjects to shoot are professional models because they have some preconceived notion of how they look best and how they want to pose and how, what, what I’m going to need from them.
My absolute favorite subjects to shoot are. Uh, dancers, um, because they understand their body position better than anyone and can take cues. Um, even if you just come up to the surface and we say, Hey, just a little bit here and a little bit, you know, just a little more extended here, a little more flex here and just go right back down.
And it’s like, boom. Um, they’re not afraid to be nude a lot of the time cause they’re very used to, you know, dancing around quite scantily cloud or changing, you know, on the. Uh, you know, in the wings or in the studio or something like that. Um, and then I would say my equal to them are people who have done absolutely no, um, uh, photo shoots before they have no preconceived notion of what looks good or what they should be doing.
And one of my very most, you know, the, the term use, we, we sometimes use it a little bit jokingly. Sometimes there are, uh, but he’s definitely been one of my go tos. And, um, I said to him, once I said, how is it. Like, I look, every frame I take of you, I looked through and the only ones that I don’t like are where I screwed something up.
But you always look, you always look perfect. Like, how do you always do you know how to do, how is like, what, why is that? And he’s just like, well, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, so I don’t do anything. And I was just like, ah, perfect. Right. I need more people to do nothing, um, or to do less because less is more.
And I think that’s definitely, that’s one of my principles. It’s not true for everyone. I think sometimes more is more if, if what you’re going for is, um, that grand, um, uh, image that, that looks, you know, there’s a complexity to its composition, to its, um, to how the, the subject is dressed, how they’re lit, how their, their body position.
If, if, if it were to be stripped down, it wouldn’t be the image that you know that you or someone else had in mind. Um, every once in a while, I kind of stumble into something that looks like that, but usually. My stuff is more, um, uh, I would say I try to go for that, you know, remove, remove, remove less, less, less minimalist, and let there be two or three things that the eye can see.
And then the rest is, uh, to the imagination as to, as to why they’re there.
Brett Stanley: [00:41:13] I think that’s totally true. And what drew me to your work in the first place, I think was, was the minimal nature of it. It was very, you know, I’m coming from a, like, you know, let’s put as much fabric in the water as we can kind
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:41:25] but that’s what I love about your work, right? I mean, that’s, that’s what’s, and we’ve talked about lighting before, um, you know, through, uh, you know, just through Instagram, DMS and, you know, That’s like your signature, right? Whereas like, I’m, maybe I’m just not smart enough to use light, uh, that well, or technical least savvy enough to know how to get it all to sync up the way I want it to.
So I’m just looking for available light. Cause it’s all I know how to use. And so sometimes that’s, you know, sometimes your limitations are your greatest strength. Um, and if you can figure out how to harness those things, then. Uh, then go with it. Right. And if you, if you can’t figure it out, then figure something else out.
And, and then that was, will become your strength. But in, I guess I was lucky enough that. I had a limited enough toolbox beginning and you know, that included access to pools, access to models. So I learned to be a scavenger. I learned to be a, uh, to control individuals that yeah, you want to try, this seems reasonable, um, and was able to develop enough of a body of work and, and stump stumbled onto something, um, at the, uh, You know, at the level that, um, I can show, I can show something to it, to a perspective subject and say, Hey, would you like to try a photo like this?
And they would be like, yeah, that looks cool. But like the first guy that I said, would you like to try a photo? So like, I don’t know what it is that I want to do. Um, those are the, that I have to go back and be like, you know, I owe you an incredible debt of gratitude because they took a chance on an idea that.
I don’t even know what it was. They were just much like me though. They were as happy to be part of the process. Cause they really liked playing around with it because they were water babies too. They just liked to be in the water. And so even if nothing good came out of it, they were like, well, that was a fun way to spend an afternoon, which is, you know, obviously, um, something that not all photo-shoots turn into, but a lot of underwater photo shoots do.
Brett Stanley: [00:43:18] And I think, I think we find each other as well. I think in terms of, of like muses and, and models and sort of clients, even who, who really, um, push us to create. Bigger and better stuff. I think we ended up kind of gravitating towards each other because of that love of water. It’s it kind of drags us towards each other.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:43:37] Yeah, no, I think it’s, um, And, and, and what you think is going to be the shot. What do you have in mind? Uh, you know, sometimes you’re right, but, but if you’re open to seeing or hearing, or at least. You know, trying what it is that the other person is, is bringing, uh, you know, to the shoot or to the, um, you know, I, a lot of pre-shoot, um, work and a lot of that is his prep work is in terms of building that relationship.
So I’m often a big fan of doing a. You know, like a face to face, meet like a, you know, a coffee or at least a, at least a phone call. And then, uh, often we’ll do some kind of dry land shoot to kind of just so that I start to understand their, I understand their ability to take direction. They understand what it is that I’m after I can get a sense of what their body looks like, what are their strengths?
What are their weaknesses? And then, and maybe only then do we jump in the water and. Of course I’ve had other people where it’s just like, well, we happened to be in Hawaii. There happens to be, you know, this crystal clear water, why don’t we both jump in and see what we get? And sometimes that’s a great photo and then other people, uh, you do that.
And you’re like, yep. Not everybody should do underwater photography. Um, which, which we’ve all experienced. Um, for sure.
Brett Stanley: [00:44:52] absolutely. And so, so talk to me about your, business itself in terms of photography. Are you coming at it from a fine art point of view where your kind of taking photos that your, um, That your bank rolling and then selling them as prints or, or have you got clients coming in who are paying you to, to shoot with you?
And then they’re getting the resulting prints.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:45:13] Yeah, that’s a great, um, I mean that, that’s a great distinction or, or, or a distinction is the wrong word, but, uh, um, there’s different models, right? There’s different ways to, uh, to, to do this, uh, in a, in a financially viable way. Um, and I have mad respect for people that do it, uh, differently than I do because.
I probably, if I could, I would. And I just can’t. And so I don’t, and I do it another way. Um, uh, I, I think it was probably, it was because I wasn’t dependent on the outcome of the, of the photographs, um, financially. That wasn’t, that wasn’t what was going to pay the rent or pay for groceries that week. And so I could afford to just kind of sit on them, you know?
And, um, I say, sit on the mat. I threw so much stuff up on Instagram. And in retrospect, I wish I had held back a little bit more, but at the same time, that’s when I was going through my, you know, my ride. It is. And I probably wouldn’t have gone through that. If I wasn’t. Being as active and putting in the algorithm was kind of working that way then for me.
And so you can’t call it back and say, Oh, I wish I’d done this differently because who knows what would have happened. Right. So, um, um,
Brett Stanley: [00:46:26] you think you would have, you should have held back on some stuff? Was there things that you wanted to keep in reserve for, for something else or,
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:46:32] Oh yeah. I think it just would have made, you know, coming out with, um, you know, shows and books a little bit easier. Cause there was a lot of good stuff. That once it kind of seen the light of day, uh, even through social media, it loses a certain, um, uh, shine. Yeah, exactly. So I think, but at the same time, I, I needed to do be shooting that much and producing that much and sharing that much in order to learn as much as I did, because it was just a.
It really was a two year, uh, bordering on manic in terms of how much I was shooting and. Um, for somebody who didn’t have a pool, you know, for somebody who didn’t live by the ocean, uh, how I was kind of get gathering and, and doing as much as I was doing. Um, and through that, of course, figuring out what it was that I wanted to say or what my, my artistic voice was or what my aesthetic was.
Um, uh, only comes through just producing, right. And, and producing doesn’t necessarily mean publishing or selling. It means just. Just shooting, like
Brett Stanley: [00:47:33] It doesn’t even necessarily have to be good.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:47:35] No, no, it’s sometimes isn’t as better when it’s not. Um, you know, uh, but it’s nice when every once in a while one of them is okay. You know? Um, so, uh, yeah, so I, you know, I’ve been approached by a few different, um, you know, commercial opportunities.
And of course, when they first came along, I jumped at them because I was like, are you serious? You want, you want to send me product and you want to pay me to, Oh yeah. That’d be amazing. Oh, that’ll be easy. No problem. Like fish in a barrel, like easy. And I would take them on those things. First of all, I didn’t really know how to take on, you know, a professional client.
Well, I didn’t know how to. You know, have a, a contract or I didn’t know what the correct language was. I had no idea what, you know, kind of how to budget it or how to, what numbers I should be pitching to them. So I’m not sure if I left money on the table or took more than I deserved or what, but I, I certainly didn’t feel like I knew what the hell I was doing.
Brett Stanley: [00:48:34] And what, what sort of clients were they, were they brands or
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:48:37] Yeah. Mostly. Yeah. Yeah. So I, I certainly had the, um, you know, would you take an underwater portrait of me? Um, you know, what’s your, you know, what’s your rate? I beat because I didn’t have ready access to a, um, a location. I found the logistics of doing those ones challenging and, uh, it’s. And, and, and I think I also recognize that.
Part of where my work was going was as much about how perfect the location was. Uh, maybe people, you know, body types and inclusivity and all that kind of stuff is a whole other conversation, but definitely people were liking. Um, a certain aesthetic of, of the guys that I was shooting. Um, and that’s where fantasy came from for me.
Like you talk about fantasy through, um, uh, through makeup or through hair or through, um, through fabrics or through light. Um, part of the fantastical part of, of, of my imagery, even in their simplicity is in the. Either a other worldly or unachievable level of, um, you know, fitness or body type or whatever, uh, to whatever ideal, whether it’s, uh, you know, Greek or Roman escort or contemporary ad, it doesn’t really matter.
There was some agreement that this was not a, not a horrible looking individual, um, and, uh, that there was some benefit to there being. Um, an aesthetically pleasing subject creating a aesthetically pleasing image. And I struggle with that a lot because, and I’m sure you face this and others when people say, well, you know, it’d be nice if you took photos of more normal looking people or more average people, or is this the only type of person that you think is attractive?
And, um, I really, that it hurts and it hurts probably cause I, on some level I struggle with that. Um, uh, But I think it’s a little bit like if someone, you know, likes taking pictures of, of, um, of cars, like they’re a car photographer, um, do we begrudge them if they only take pictures of, um, uh, classic cars or, or super cars or, um, you know, everything’s shiny and perfect or should did should a car photographer be taking pictures of all cars?
Brett Stanley: [00:50:44] Yeah. I think, I think people don’t realize how much the subject itself in infers the photographer’s skill. That’s maybe a bad way of wording it, but I mean, I, I get those questions all the time and it’s, for me, it’s like, why don’t you take pictures of men more often? One of those reasons is because they don’t get many men offering, but the other reason is I don’t think I’m as good as shooting men as I am at women, because I know what I’m looking for with the female body.
I know what’s going to work. Whereas with men, I haven’t kind of learnt that language. And I think it’s the same thing with architecture. I could. Yeah, I know how to use the camera, but I don’t think I’d look at it architecture the same way as an architectural photographer for wood to be able to get the kind of the soul in those shots. I think it’s yeah, not everyone is a, is a Swiss army knife.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:51:34] Yeah. And I think we’re, you know, when they say to a writer, you know, what should I write about this? I’ll write about what, you know, you know, if you’re an artist you should be, uh, creating from a place of what, you know, it doesn’t, you’re, don’t have to just put out there everything that, you know, but, but what the art that you create is informed by who you are.
And if you’re not, if you’re not using everything that you are to create. The, um, whatever form of art you’re creating, whether it’s music, whether it’s photography, whether it’s painting, whether it’s sculpture, then you’re not really, you’re selling yourself short and you’re selling your audience short and you’re losing the opportunity to distinguish yourself from others because.
The only way that you can be sure that your work is going to be distinguished from others is if you pour all of you into it, because nobody else can do that. Nobody else can. Nobody else is you. And therefore nobody else’s work can be like yours because they don’t have you to pour into their work. Does that make sense?
Brett Stanley: [00:52:39] you do is flavored by. Yes.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:52:41] Yeah. It’s literally the lens that you see the world through. Right. You know, it’s a, a bit of an obvious analogy for a photographer, but it’s like, yeah, that’s, that’s how I see things. And therefore, this is. What I, what I portray and a lot of my work is, you know, is, is autobiographical. And so for me to, to shoot more female subjects, I’m not necessarily, I don’t know their story.
I don’t know where their, what, their emotions, their pains, their, um, their challenges. I know what my challenges have been, and I know. Uh, what I, what kind of unresolved or, or trigger points or emotions that I’m trying to convey and I’m, I’m, I’m the subject is a, um, uh, is the clay, or is the, um, the, the.
The medium is not the right word, but it’s, um, it’s how I’m telling my story because I can’t take photos of myself. Some people do really cool self portrait stuff that, that works in that way. But, but, um, I mean, I didn’t even know my work was autobiographical until one of my good friends. Who’s a, an incredible photographer.
He said that to me once. And he was just like, Oh, I love how you’re, you know, you can say so much about yourself through your work. And I was like, well, what do you need them? I’m taking pictures of other people and he’s like, yeah, but you’re telling them what to do. And you’re, you’re choosing the images that convey this, that the other thing it’s like, okay.
Oh, Oh, is that what I’m doing? Oh, shit. That’s what I’m doing. Oh, okay. I’m going to keep doing that so,
Brett Stanley: [00:54:09] working,
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:54:10] well, I mean, it’s a, so I think, I think that’s where the, you know, the male subject thing comes from me too, is that I kind of understand. Uh, it’s not necessarily their story, but there is a, there is a synchronicity, there is a share.
And maybe that comes through those, those pre shoot, uh, consultations is like, where is the meeting point for us? What, what have been your, what have been the chapters of your life? You here’s a little bit about the chapters of my life. Where do those pages line up? And let’s use those moments to, to create something together.
Brett Stanley: [00:54:36] Yeah. Yeah, totally. And along that vein, that’s what thinking about people’s experiences and them flavoring their work. Are there people that influence you or people that you, um, really look towards her and get excited about seeing their new work?
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:54:50] Yeah, I’m a.
I would say there are a number of, of artists that I, uh, respect and love. Um, partly because I’ve, I feel like I’ve learned about there. Like there’s a couple of them that I I’ve learned their we’ll call it their audacity or their, their willingness to pour themselves into. Uh, the work that they create. So I think, uh, you know, Tom Bianche and Robert Maplethorpe would be to, uh, contemporary examples of that.
These are two guys that, that just kind of didn’t we’re willing to, to, I would say they didn’t, you know, they didn’t give a fuck, but they just said like, this is my world and this is what I’m doing. And if, if I’m going to, I’m going to, I’m in they’re incredible artists and they’re going to put their work out there.
And I. I guess I loved their bravado in their, um, uh, their fearlessness to do that. And so I’ve always respected that. Um, there’s a couple of, you know, uh, water photographers on the surf side, um, that I’ve really always enjoyed their work. Um, you know, water photographers. Uh, like Ray Collins, Ray Collins, uh, Australian, um, he’s w what I love about him, I am not only is his story and how he’s, we’re, how we’re art has, has, has kind of come into his life.
And I often refer to coming into the art world through the side door and, um, uh, you know, and I think he. I think he did the same thing. And the reality of course is once you’ve been at it for a while, you realize that there actually is no front door and everyone comes in through the side door. But, but it, it, um, but it feels a bit like an imposter syndrome at the beginning, but you, you then realize that you’re using all that stuff to, to create what you’re creating.
But he’s just one of those artists that I love looking at his work and saying, You know, when you, you know, you, you really found something when you see an image and, you know, immediately that it’s his without ever having to look, uh, you know, for his name at the bottom of the page, or if you see something that you think is his, and it’s not, you kind of go, Hmm.
You know? Um, but it’s. Yeah. You know, but I mean, that’s a whole other discussion, but it’s, um, but his, uh, you know, his, his work, I I’m tremendously inspired by and I’m also inspired by his, um, He is a generosity and selflessness, you know, that I reached out to him and he just was one of those guys that just like, yeah, sure.
What, what’s your question? You know, and, and w one point it was about, you know, technical stuff about housing and, and other time it was about, I think, sponsorship. And then another time it was about, you know, putting out my first book and every time he was just like, here’s what I tried, you know, here’s what I did.
And this is what worked for me. This is what didn’t work for me. Take it or leave it. But, uh, it’s here on the table for you. And. That’s not always the answer that you get from people. And so I just have incredible, uh, respect and love for, um, for people who, um, are able to be so confident in their work that they can share.
So, um, like unabashedly.
Brett Stanley: [00:57:40] Yeah. And so, so humbly just kind of let it go.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:57:44] Yeah. Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:57:45] Their experiences, which totally brings me to the kind of the end. End of this interview, which is, um, it’s been so awesome just to listen to your experiences and your kind of point of views on, on this whole, crazy genre that we’ve, we’ve kind of stuck ourselves into.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:57:59] Yeah. I mean, I, um, I, I love, I love any good conversation with somebody who, where there’s some shared. Understanding there’s some overlap, but it’s like a Venn diagram, right? Like we’re, we’re you and I, and whoever else might be this we’re, we’re our own circles, right? Where our, where everything is inside.
But there is some little point of overlap with, you know, you and I have a point of overlap which may be narrow or maybe big. We don’t really know until we start exploring that. And maybe it’s as interesting to find out what else is in your circle. As there is to find out what is the zone of our overlap.
Right. And so, but it’s sometimes it’s that, it’s that starting point. It’s that common, that common thread that can get you there. So, um, yeah. When you asked me to do this, I was just like, sure. I, I, I, I don’t know when it’s about him. I don’t, it doesn’t really matter because it tells me it was interesting and I respect you as an artist and I respect the work that you’re doing.
And so I just, whatever I can do to be a part of something that you’re working on sounded great.
Brett Stanley: [00:58:57] Well, it’s, you’ve, you’ve added to it already. So I think, I think this whole podcast situation is just a whole heap of dots. So goals and they’re all kind of standard lineup. Um, and I think, you know, you’ve added to that really nicely,
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:59:10] Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure.
Brett Stanley: [00:59:11] yeah. So thanks, Lucas. It’s been awesome having you on here and, uh, I’m going to let you go back to your, uh, uh, Blake surfing.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:59:17] thanks very much, Brett. I appreciate the opportunity. And, uh, I hope that your, uh, your spring and summer come, uh, smoothly in California.
Brett Stanley: [00:59:23] Yeah. Thanks man. We’ll speak to you soon.
Lucas Murnaghan: [00:59:25] Take care.