Behind the scenes on a superyacht shoot

Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

Behind the scenes on a superyacht shoot

Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

Kinship

Behind the scenes on a superyacht shoot

Who better to sum up the superyacht life than the people who make a living capturing it on camera?

By Dominique Afacan | 28 November 2019

“One of the shoots that really stood out for us was on a yacht called Galactica Star,” says Jeff Brown, one of the most respected photographers on the superyacht circuit. “We were able to be creatively free as the client was really open to lots of different ideas. We wanted to show off the deck space, so we ended up having a ballet dancer performing out there.” The resulting campaign was artistic, beautiful and refreshing.

In fact, most of the campaigns shot by Breed Media (the company that Jeff co-founded alongside Robert Gleed) are refreshing. And that’s intentional. When the duo started photographing and filming yachts in the early 2000s, they were shocked by what they saw. There was no real focus on the lifestyle offered by these boats, and in most cases, they were treated purely as product and little else. “There were these little badly-printed brochures to show off this multi-million-pound yacht. It didn’t marry up,” says Jeff. “Lifestyle was way, way down the list – and yet, that’s what these boats are all about.”

Behind the scenes on a superyacht shoot

Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

Behind the scenes on a superyacht shoot

Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

Fast forward a decade or two and the industry is catching up, learning how to better reflect the passion that drives owners to invest in yachts. “A lot of the boats that we shoot have been built around family time,” says Jeff. “We try to reflect that – and the resulting lifestyle – in our shoots.” That’s not as simple as it sounds. “It also helps to hire people who have jet ski licences and the like,” says Jeff, “to help showcase all the toys on board.” The company recently brought in the number one skimboarder in the world to surf behind a superyacht, by way of example.

Building trust is also a big part of the job when dealing with some of the most private clients on earth. Having spent years among them, Jeff feels that boat owners are often misunderstood. “I know quite a few owners now. The ones that we know will have a beer with us or come out for dinner. It’s not like, ‘Oh, we’re going out for dinner with a superyacht owner.’ We don’t look at it like that at all and I don’t think they do either.”

Behind the scenes on a superyacht shoot

Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

Behind the scenes on a superyacht shoot

Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

For two down-to-earth creatives from New Zealand, that must be a relief. They stumbled upon the industry almost by accident when they happened to photograph the Millennium Cup, a superyacht regatta. “There was a whole load of superyachts in town and I knew someone who was building one so we thought we’d make a DVD of it,” says Robert. The pair also arranged to shoot the event from a helicopter and later realised there was a huge appetite for the kind of content they were producing. “It wasn’t until 2003, when we went over to the Monaco Yacht Show, that we realised there was this huge industry out there.”

For the pair, it was pretty obvious from the start that emotion was a huge motivation when it came to yacht purchases. “If you are buying something like this, it’s partly an emotional buy. That’s why conveying that lifestyle has been so critical for us. The technical stuff is still important, of course, as people want to see what they are going to buy, but it’s not the driver.”

Behind the scenes on a superyacht shoot

Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

Behind the scenes on a superyacht shoot

Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

The pair have been all over the world since those early days in New Zealand. “We’ve done most of the hot places,” says Jeff. “Fiji was pretty amazing. And Tahiti with those big mountains and that incredible water. Plus, it’s not crowded. Montenegro is pretty up there for scenery, too.” It might seem an exhaustive list as it stands, but Jeff has more to cross off. “We are mirroring the owners in a way, in that we are looking for something a bit different now. I’d like to go up into the ice next.”

It’s an exciting life, despite the constant jetlag, and Jeff is aware that an office job after such an exhilarating career would likely be impossible. “Being from New Zealand and surrounded by water, I can’t help but have a massive love for it – and I am out there all the time.” Whether dangling from a helicopter to get the perfect shot, zipping around in a tender, or immersed in the water for his striking ‘half and half’ shots, Jeff is living the superyacht life every time he goes to work.

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