Aaaand they’re back for another wild and crazy episode of the Beneath the Surface Podcast. In the 23rd installment, Beneath the Surface Podcast: The Compound, Corey and Sean take us on a journey from Los Angeles, CA, to Fort Walton Beach, FL.
The stories take us through the course of Sean’s career spanning 26 years, from a punk rock photographer in the 1990’s to his work with BOTE in the present day. Sure, on the surface that sounds like a good time, but there’s more. In this episode they go beneath the surface, diving into inspiration, community, and creative expression. There are some layers to this onion; get ready to start peeling. Enjoy.
COMING AT YOU DIRECT, FROM THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, TO THE CENTER OF EVERYWHERE.
Who's In The Episode
Lead Designer, Co-Founder, and CEO at BOTE, Corey Cooper is a licensed engineer hailing from Auburn University. Corey is the pioneer of the DarkRoom, assisting with the design of the machinery, concepting the layout and ultimately developing the workflow used in DarkRoom production. Corey’s passion for this project is so strong that on any given day, regardless of how busy things are at BOTE, you will often find Corey working in the DarkRoom.
Sean Murphy is the Director of Photography at BOTE and a world-renowned photographer based in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. After spending most of his career based in Los Angeles, shooting for brands like Adidas, Red Bull, and Toyota, just to name a few, Sean moved back to the Redneck Riviera. You can find Sean capturing gritty America and spontaneous moments that translate into visually stunning photography.
Corey and Sean are back again to kick off episode 23 of Beneath the Surface: The Compound.
00:01:16 Is Anyone Listening?
As things begin to normalize at the BOTE HQ and the team questions how to fit the podcast into an already busy day, our two humble hosts, Corey and Sean, start this episode off with a question for the audience, “Is anyone listening?” – Sean Murphy
They both joke that for those out there that are listening to please send an email to Suzy with any feedback for how you think the podcast is going, what you’d like to hear from the podcast, or any general feedback and requests.
00:02:13 The Compound
For those of you that have tuned in to previous episodes or have been keeping up with Sean since the beginning you’re probably somewhat familiar with his story. A big part of his story is The Compound, a place of refuge and creativity and also his home.
00:02:46 From East to West
Sean spent 26 years as a photographer in Los Angeles shooting for the music industry and has worked with everyone from Kid Rock to Weezer.
“I had lived in a few different places throughout the Valley, and Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles to Calabasas. So it was kind of like from east to west; as far as you could go East to as far as you could go West. Except on the beach, I could never live on the beach because I couldn’t afford it” – Sean Murphy
00:03:16 Canoga Park
After Sean got out of rehab he relocated to Canoga Park, a dirty part of the valley between Reseda and Studio City on the border of West Hills. Originally an old concrete factory, The Compound sat wedged between a mosque and a Vietnamese mechanic shop and across the street from the “free clinic”. The surrounding area was mostly commercial aside from a few strip clubs.
“My backdoor backed up to the back door of Godfathers which is an all nude, low-level strip club for construction workers” — Sean Murphy
As Sean continues describing Canoga Park, Corey laughs and says to Sean, “Great place to raise your kids.”
00:04:50 Mixed Use
Shortly after Sean got out of rehab he was leaving his photo studio and got approached by the guys who owned the concrete factory. At the time they weren’t doing well so they half-jokingly offered Sean the chance to rent it out from them.
“I looked in there, and I mean, it was a shithole… millions of years of linoleum layers and cottage cheese ceilings, divided by offices and wood paneling.” — Sean Murphy
For $2,500/mo. Sean decides to rent the place out and also live in the section that he isn’t using as studio space. Which despite being illegal in LA, the guys he was renting it from essentially said it’s fine.
“That’s fine. But we’re not having anything to do with it because it’s illegal.” — Sean’s landlord in Canoga Park
00:06:08 Chipping away at the linoleum
In an attempt to spruce the space up, Sean went to work chipping away at the linoleum only later to realize it was probably contaminated with asbestos.
With a little hard work, The Compound started to take shape.
“We gutted this place and we turned it into this kind of oasis. An artist oasis.” — Sean Murphy
“I had to shower out behind the cement pumps with a hose and a bar of soap like if you’re in prison. I think prison is even better than this. And I’d eat off a hot plate” — Sean Murphy
As Sean slowly settled into his new neighborhood he recalls a visit from the LAPD to inform him of the local gangs running drugs and scouting from his rooftop. In an effort to contribute to the neighborhood he decides to buy a couch from the local thrift store to put on his roof for the kids patrolling the roof.
00:08:38 Neighborhood Acceptance
Over time Sean gets a feeling of acceptance amongst the local community and makes friends with some of his neighbors.
“I became friends with the mosque. And I integrated easily with the neighborhood. My kids became accepted. Although they had to put their money in their socks when they walked around.” — Sean Murphy
00:09:23 A Creative Place
Sean reflects on the space, the parties, and the whole experience.
“It was a creative place. It was a lot of action going on there. A lot of bands. People from France would be in town. Actors all over the place....People would always just show up and shoot.”
00:11:20 The Easter Story
The Compound has always been a place that people congregated at all hours. One of the more common draws to the compound was Sean’s collection of exotic reptiles–alligator snapping turtles to iguanas, Sean had it all.
When he hears some people talking out in his courtyard, he thinks nothing of it and checks his security system to find an entire SWAT team climbing over his walls and helicopters flying over the top. He opens the door to a shotgun in his face and cops yelling at him to get on the ground. Meanwhile, his kids are sleeping in the backroom. He gets cuffed and taken to the car while the SWAT team swarms his house.
Luckily, the story ends on a good note and a killer photo op for Sean and his kids.
00:15:01 Heading East
As Sean started working more closely with Corey and the BOTE crew he saw it as an opportunity to move back home to Florida.
00:15:33 The Dance Studio
While looking for a new home in Florida, Sean and his wife find an old dance studio in the shambles of downtown Fort Walton and see this as an opportunity to bring their creative oasis from LA to the community of Fort Walton.
“I really like having people around. I like the inspiration. I like constant inflow of, you know, friends, artist, neighborhood people just kind of always adding to the chaos” — Sean Murphy
00:16:57 The Neighborhood Mural
Sean talks about how he is using his property to encourage creativity and beauty in the neighborhood. With a large piece of property and a big grey wall he has invited everyone in the neighborhood to use his property as their canvas.
“I thought it would be cool to invite whoever wanted to paint on this giant fence to come and add to the neighborhood. And you know we’ve had, I don’t know, at this point, 20-30 great artist–kids, adults, and everything in between– painting the fence” — Sean Murphy
00:17:36 The Bunker
In Sean’s 20+ year career he has worked with some incredible people. Now in his new compound, he talks about the bunker he has built to store all of his old photo negatives giving him access to his entire life’s work.
Stay tuned for the upcoming episodes and don’t forget to check out any of the past episodes if you’ve missed them. See ya.