Sunday, June 12, 2011

tommy murphy - a tribute

To date, there are about 5000 visits each month to this blog. Most readers are here to learn about and appreciate the world of photography, along with some of my so called humor. If you are one of those 5000 fellow nerds, like myself, you probably have noticed that I haven't posted in a few weeks. Trust me, I noticed, page views have plummeted. Today, I will explain why there has been an absence of blog updates.

Each week, typically on Sundays, I usually wake up, grab a cup of black coffee and sit in front of a blank screen, prepared to give a somewhat lucid tutorial about how I created the photograph posted in that specific blog. This, I must admit, is no easy task. Some days I stare deep into the LCD without a thought in my brain. Eventually, I somehow stir up some creative writing abilities and spew out an article worthwhile to readers in over 100 countries. Stressful, you bet. Why do I put myself through this torture? Easy. I love photography and even more, I love to share with the world the tips, tricks and techniques of taking professional level photographs. Today, on the other hand, has been the most difficult blog that I have NEVER considered writing.

I'm writing today from a new MacBook Pro. It's the grandaddy of the new lineup. 17" monitor with all of the bells and whistles. If you are a focused reader of this blog you would know that I am no fan of the laptop, regardless of its capabilities. So, why then am I banging away at the keys of this machine? It was my brother Tommy's newest purchase for his rapidly growing business. Tommy Murphy passed away in a tragic motorcycle accident a few weeks ago, specifically on May 27, 2011.  Now, without my explanation, you probably know why I haven't posted in the last few weeks. I knew I would sit here after that awful day and write something in his honor. My mind just couldn't put all of the pieces together. Today I decided to procrastinate no more. Readers want content and I have a duty to fulfill. Rather than sit here and write some dreary, miserable story, about that day in late May, I decided to write something a bit more positive, a celebration if you will.

Without further ado, Tommy Murphy and his adventures (the abridged version of course).

[Note: photog nerds such as myself, be patient, I will explain the tech details of the photo towards the end of the article. Relax!]

I don't want to sit here and write the cliche article about Tommy Murphy. You know what I'm talking about. A glamorized obituary is not my intention here. If that offends anyone, oh well. I want to discuss who he was and always will be, to me. 

Thomas C. Murphy, he was my big brother, best friend, mentor, teacher and guide. For a lack of better words, he was and always will be my inspiration. Let me start by saying that if it wasn't for Tommy, this blog would probably not exist. 


Tommy was unique in this facet of life. Most people cringe at the sound of their alarm clock each Monday morning. Like zombies, most Americans drag themselves to their 9-5 reciting in their heads, "time to make the donuts." I can only think about the movie "Office Space" when thinking about working Americans. If you haven't seen this masterpiece, I highly recommend it. The point I'm trying to make here is that many people do not have a passion for their careers, they just have work. Tommy did not fall into this category. 

For many years my big bro was the Creative Director for a large advertising agency called The Starr Group, more specifically a branch of The Starr Group called The Media and Marketing Group. There he directed a team of designers, writers and account executives to produce, develop and launch advertising campaigns around the globe. Tommy was a key player at The Starr Group. He worked on in every media channel, ranging from designing print ads to directing national television commercials. His key clients were many of our countries casinos. Chances are, if you've been in a casino in the last few years, you've probably held a poker chip in your hand that Tommy designed. 

When people asked what is was that he did for a living, Tommy would often respond by saying, "I create perception." I loved that cocky response. Some weren't sure how to react to this comment and others unsure of its meaning. I will let you figure that one out. 

This company treated Tommy very well, in more ways than one. It was at this ad agency that my brother met the love of his life, Jennifer Cooper or Coop as he liked to call her. They worked on different teams but it wasn't long until they hooked up in other ways. They moved in together shortly after dating. A fringe benefit if I had ever known one. Between you, me and readers in over 100 countries, Tommy told me he was planning on asking Coop to marry her this summer. 

Ok, I've gone off the work track a bit. I couldn't help it, the love story segwayed so smoothly. Back to business. Where was I? Oh, work, or what Tommy did not consider it. He used to tell me how he loved to go to work each day. That would make many very jealous. 


As many creatives do at some point or another, while advancing in their career, Tommy was doing some freelance work. He had planned on leaving the ad agency at one point in his life. Again, he was one of few that would make a dream come true. I used to say that he would be crazy to leave such a great career to take a gamble on owning his own business. Boy was I wrong! Excuse the language but I think that it took some set of balls to do what he did. 

Tommy was huge on networking. He was in the upper echelon of social circles, always mingling and connecting with the elite. It was beginning to pay off. He had a passion for gourmet food and restaurants. His business plan was becoming a reality. Tommy was about to become a full service provider for Philadelphia eateries, top notch eateries no less. By full service, I mean in the creative sense. This package would include for the clients, everything imaginable to advertise and promote a new or already existing restaurant. The new business would be aptly named, brand by TM.

One of his first clients is a famous Philadelphia restaurant owner by the name of Michael Stollenwerk. Stollenwerk owns a few of the cities premier restaurants such as, Little Fish, Fish and Fathom. When Tommy and Michael made their connection, it was an instant success. Let's take Fish, for instance. This small seafood restaurant located on Lombard Street, between 17th and 18th, was new and open for business. The owner, already successful with Little Fish thought that Fish would be a no brainer. People should just show up, right? Tommy used to say that is a bad attitude to have. He convinced Stollenwerk that his ideas would change the face of the new seafood joint. Tommy then redesigned the whole thing, from the interior design to the new advertising, marketing and PR plans. It was an immediate success. Not long after the makeover, Fish and brand by TM were mentioned in The New York Times and Zagat. Brand by TM was recognized and began to take off. Tommy was then working on Stollenwerk's other seafood house, Fathom. He rebranded the whole face of the restaurant. Again, the work was paying off exponentially. 

Other clients that Tommy was working closely with were, just to name a few, Kevin Spraga, one of tv's "Top Chef" winners and Jill Weber, owner of Jet Wine Bar, located at 15th and South St. His empire was quickly growing. Yep, just goes to show, that set of cajones sure paid off. 

A Rich Life

Tommy lead a life that I have to admit, I envied. As hard as he worked, he played. He put in hours upon hours creating for restaurant owners and still always found time for much needed recreational time. Never was there an event or party going on that he didn't know about. He used to bitch and moan about my bitching and moaning. I'd always get calls about some huge party and whatever place and I typically liked to turn down the offer. After working, I'm more a fan of plopping my ass on the couch with a cold one and the remote control. This drove him crazy. Tommy would yell at me, explaining the importance of networking outside of work, to ultimately get more work. I understood and still do understand his point of view. I just thought it was amazing that he could muster up that sort of energy to go go go. 

I don't want to bore you with the typical childhood stuff, it was the typical big brother little brother rivalry. He kicked my ass, I ran to tell on him and that cycle continued until we were adults. The only difference was that in adulthood, he kicked my ass mentally. Trying to beat some sense into me for obvious reasons. He was a genius at what he did and knew about my journey and wanted to help me in every way possible. 

My Friend and Teacher

Another smooth segway, right from kicking my mental ass to this topic. I digress. Tommy was a huge advocate of social networking, Facebook, Twitter, you know, what the whole damn planet is doing today. I recall the debate we had over the topic. I swore that it would die as quickly as MySpace and eventually he won the argument. From time to time, I would still debate the opinion he had on social media but eventually I had to give in. He was right. I'm not sure why I would question his thoughts on such topics, hell, it was his job to know about that stuff. 

I mentioned earlier that this blog may not have been in existence had it not been for Tommy. I want to touch on that a bit. Take a pee break if you must. 

It will be one year on July 15th that "light" came to life on the internet world, more specifically the blog world. I had toyed around with the idea but wasn't sure what approach to take. I knew I would be teaching others photography techniques, just didn't know where to start. Tommy shed the light on the topic for me. We did have some disagreements along the way. 

I'm a fan of Blogger. Tommy was more into WordPress. Not a big disagreement but the two of us had our opinions of why each was better than the other. Advertising is where things changed on this blog. It was a huge choice that I had to make and one that brings me to tears each day. When I began my Blogger account I noticed that there were ways to make money by blogging. Bloggers are aware of Google's AsSense and other pay-per-click programs. I immediately jumped on this. I had ads pasted all over the blog. Everything from Adobe to Apple, Canon to Vivitar. If I qualified for the ad I stuck it somewhere on the blog. I started to make money. There was a day I ran to my wife Stefanie excited that we had earned about fifty cents, for doing nothing! I was hooked. I had to increase traffic to increase my internet earnings. I began submerging myself in articles about making six figures a year through blogging. I discussed this with my brother and his wisdom once again came to light. He asked me why I was blogging. I explained that I wanted to educate others about photography and making a few bucks while doing so. He said to me that if my intentions were to educate than I should just do that, educate. He went further by saying that those who are out for the quick buck are not doing what they truly want. Tommy said that if I wrote, wrote well, wrote what I had passion for, the readers would soon follow. Blogs covered in ads are a dead giveaway for hacks who are just in it for the money. I took the advice, removed the ads and focused on the task at hand, teaching and sharing my knowledge. Since the removal of the ads, the traffic has gone through the roof. 

The Stuff-That-I-Didn't-Want-to-Post-but-Felt-Necessary-to-Post

Look, I can go on and on and on but then I would bore the hell out of most readers. Today was a blog post for me, an emotional outlet to some stuff I was holding inside. This was a healthy way for me to express my feelings (you should see my face, just kidding). Anyways, Tommy was loved and admired by many. I couldn't even sit here and write all of the family and friends that Tommy's life touched in some way or another. I'd like to give a few key players some recognition before my wrap up. If I missed you, I didn't do so on purpose. 

Mom, he loved adored and protected.

Dad, his great teacher, especially golf!

Philip, besides me, Tommy's other protege.

Morgan, our little sister, who Tommy loved and was probably overprotective of, lol.

John, the one and only who could talk food as much as Tommy.

Margie, who he loved, especially her emails!

Jen, his soul mate.

Stefanie, my wife and Tommy's sister (in-law that is).

Mike and Ryan, step brothers.

Family, cousins, aunts and uncles (all 100 or so).

Chris, Panto, Sharif, McGlinchey, Adham, P.R. Steve, Ellis and the whole rest of the crew.

...did I forget to mention such significant figures such as Tommy's favorite aunt Theresa, cousin Laura Francomb and the infamous Tom Caruso?

Not sure why I listed everyone, I had some point to make but I'm starting to go cross eyed at this point. I need to wrap this up. I think I wanted to thank everyone for everything. My mind has gone blank, once again. 

The Photograph Above

Ok, so if you are simply a photographer that would like to know how the above was taken you are going to be sorely disappointed. You are getting the bare minimum. My carpal tunnel cannot take hitting many more keys. It was done with Tommy's Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 lens. I shot it at ISO1600 at 1/80 shutter at f/1.8, wide open. Light was bounced in the room somewhere. Post processing, I forget, deal with it for now. The photo is that of Tommy and little sister Morgan.

Now What ?

As strange as that question is, I've been asked that by a few close people in my life since Tommy's passing. Now What? I know what my journey will be, one that Tommy and I have spoken of in great detail. I just have to remove the parts where I tell him he is wrong and I'm right. Take out that part and the formula will be perfect. As for the rest of you, be it family or friend, the answer is there, you just have to dig deep into your heart to find out. 

Again, I didn't want to sit here and make this thing miserable. I wanted to do what I do best here, educate. I wanted to give the world an idea of who and what Tommy was and did. Bottom Line, he was and always will be my hero.

Tommy, I miss you, only until we meet again. I love you. Thank you.

...and as much as I hate laptops, I'm going to have to grow to love this one, great works were created here...