Job opportunity is there - just look for your niche, says Nhuri
At 30 Nhuri Bashir quit his corporate job to develop what had been his hobby – into a business.
It paid off.
Burnt House Productions, the Bermuda-based advertising agency he founded with Andrew Kirkpatrick, has become a go-to for local and international companies. Gosling's, Azura Bermuda, Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort and Hamilton Princess & Beach Club are a handful of the clients on its list.
"In a small country it can be easy for you to feel like the avenues are very small," said Mr Bashir, who was an amateur photographer when he left HSBC Bermuda seven years ago with a goal of becoming a "front-runner in the area of luxury lifestyle photography and film".
"If you believe the avenues are small then venturing out and trying to do other things can almost seem daunting. For me, travel has always been the goal; to be shooting abroad and shooting for large brands, for lifestyle and architecture, that has always been a goal of mine."
He is grateful for the time he spent at HSBC learning about business practice – as an entrepreneur it became "very valuable".
"But I always had this concept that I would leave and kind of forge out on my own at the age of 30," Mr Bashir said.
"Exactly at 30 I basically went in to my boss and said, 'I'm done.' Obviously I had [the support of my wife, Sherice]. She's been the bedrock of a lot of things in my life. And so with her support I packed up the corporate life and kind of embarked on this creative journey."
It helped that he was able to form a fairly quick partnership with Mr Kirkpatrick. The pair had been friends since they met in school at age 14.
"He was already a filmmaker and so, me having the photography skills, we kind of had a perfect complement," Mr Bashir said. "So we basically kind of embarked on photography and videography for clients together."
They were optimistic about their prospects despite a belief held at the time by many in their field that "high-end or larger" companies only hired foreigners.
"I never was really keen or interested in doing wedding photography," Mr Bashir said. "We’ve done events but we were never really interested [in that area] it was more high-end corporate work that we were keen on doing. So breaking into that was the modus operandi; that was the primary focus.
"Andrew and I we were like, 'Why don’t we try to figure out what these companies that are hiring foreign photographers and videographers are looking for instead of just throwing our hands up and saying it could never happen because they always hire them?'"
And so the pair hired themselves out as assistants so they could "learn the tricks of the trade that set those guys apart".
"We helped a lot of large productions and we really got a strong sense of how to basically conduct a high-end shoot. It’s not necessarily the skill set [of being a photographer or videographer] it’s all of the other stuff. It’s really the back work in putting together mood boards and decks and scheduling and all that kind of stuff that, I guess, sets the novice and the professional apart."
Mr Bashir began taking pictures as a hobby in university. Instagram was a game-changer.
"That’s when I had, for the first time, a platform. I could put it out there without having to build a website and that sort of stuff. So that pushed me a little bit further to get better at perfecting it," he said.
"That was the first big break. I started getting people looking at the images that I posted on Instagram and the first set of clients that reached out were Hamilton Princess. They were like, 'Hey look, we really love the stuff you’re doing. Would you be interested in shooting some stuff for us?' That was the kickoff."
Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort and Spa, Bermuda Tourism Authority and other companies came calling soon after.
"So it was just like a snowball effect," he said. "Having the professionalism and having the skill set, it really, really allowed for a perfect storm of business and interesting clients. And so we just started working with bigger and bigger ones."
Mr Bashir, who is completely self-taught, believes photography is something that anyone can do as long as they are willing to work at it.
"There’s a technical side to it of course, but it’s not something you couldn’t learn. It’s not something that is exclusive to the select few that were born with a photography brain. I think you need an eye but I think an eye can be trained just like a hand can be trained to write," he said. "Some people will have a natural propensity and be better just right off the bat and that’s just because some people see things differently and the public appreciate their eye in a different way."
Their work with multinational companies here got Burnt House Productions shooting overseas although Covid-19 has put a number of projects on hold.
"Basically we did a lot of work for these clients and we got the eye of other brands," Mr Bashir said. "We went to St Lucia to do a shoot for the Viceroy. Obviously that’s owned by the [Green family, owners of the Hamilton Princess] but the Viceroy is an international brand. They have to vet you to shoot for their brand. Covid kind of messed it up but they wanted us to shoot other properties for them also.
"We had three multinational jobs that were signed, sealed and delivered but we just couldn't travel – it wasn’t reasonable for us to even want to travel at that specific time. So Covid-19 really put a damper on the international side of things but now it’s come back around. At this point in time we’re still active but we all want to be reasonable. We don’t want to be spreading the virus around and exposing people. I have two children. I certainly don't want to expose them."
What sets Burnt House Productions apart is that he and Mr Kirkpatrick aren’t concerned about competing with "Joe the photographer next door".
"It's never been a goal of mine to solely focus on local work," he said. "In reality we're in a world full of photographers. If you look at the world as competition then the level at which you operate has to match a global standard.
"If you go after a saturated market you're going to find it very difficult to find work because people will already have people that they like. I don’t think that in photography that the area that we decided to work in – hotel, lifestyle and corporate – I don’t think that a lot of people were actively going after that niche [when we started out]. We kind of forged our own path in that realm."
He continued: "If you look at my photography portfolio, if you go to nhuribashir.com, you'll see that it's heavily focused on architecture and luxury lifestyle and corporate. You won't see wedding photos. You won't see photos of families. You won't see photos of children. My focus was to be the best in the realm that I liked. I like to travel. I like hotels. I like working in corporate, working with people that are in high finance. That’s kind of the areas I enjoy and so I decided that focusing on that realm was the realm for me."