Friday, February 7, 2014
Austin Bond didn’t plan to become a photographer, but then he didn’t plan to become a minister either.
Yet at 37, Bond, the father of three, finds himself in both positions. He’s the youth minister at Belin Memorial United Methodist Church and increasingly one of Murrells Inlet’s prime photographers, selling his shots of the place he calls home.
Perhaps no one was more surprised than Bond when one of his first shots of the Inlet, a sunset over the marsh he photographed from Marlin Quay and sent to a television weatherman for inclusion on a Facebook page, got more than 800 “likes.”
“It really wasn’t planned,” Bond said. “I just shot the sunset with a boat going by. I thought it was cool.” That was in June 2012.
It was also cool that one of his best-sellers is the Belin seaside cross, caught in the fog on Jan. 15, 2013.
“Someone asked to buy it. It was like wow,” he said. “I was surprised. I had been giving them away.”
Although like many people Bond learned to use a camera as a teenager, unlike many he’s still shooting pictures, even as the technology has changed.
His first camera was an SLR that was his father’s. Now, he uses a digital — his own.
His early work was on his high school yearbook and he continued his interest at Clemson University, where he worked on the yearbook.
“I took a ton of people and sports,” he recalled. His most recent work is much different. It’s more art, and it can be seen not only on Bond’s Facebook page, but on the Myrtle Beach chamber’s site, at Belin and hanging in a number of homes throughout the southern Strand and beyond.
His Facebook page has brought him interest from throughout the U.S., as well as stories from people who have purchased his photos.
One of his favorite tales is about a couple from Ohio.
“A woman wanted the picture of the cross as a Christmas gift for her boyfriend,” Bond said. We discussed the size and the backing and she bought it. At the same time, although we didn’t know it, her boyfriend bought the same picture as a gift for her.”
His photography efforts almost didn’t happen. At Clemson, Bond majored in microbiology with an eye toward medical school.
Like many students, though, he changed his mind before the time came to apply to medical school.
He thought about using his minor, music, but he couldn’t quite put a career together using both skill sets.
“I thought I might want to be a teacher, but it would have taken another two and a half years to get a teaching degree,” he recalled.
Yet he felt a calling to work with youth. At Clemson, where he met his wife of 14 years, Katharine, he attended church, taught chapel and started a praise band.
It was a friend of Katharine’s who told him about a position as a youth minister. He applied and got the job — a far cry from his first full-time job at a hospital in Greenville, but not so far removed from his second position, teaching at North Myrtle Beach Christian School. When the job at Belin opened, Bond jumped at it.
He lives not far from the church, which gives him easy access to the church and the marsh, the subjects of many of his photographs.
He has begun to merge the pictures with his strong faith. His latest endeavor are note cards, which carry his photographs and a Bible verse.
If the job at Belin and his photography don’t keep him busy, he can count on 10-year-old Sierra, 7-year-old Caroline and 3-year-old Dakota to keep him hopping.
Sometimes he brings the children with him when he shoots his pictures.
He says that selling his work has given him a new skill.
“I never thought I would be giving advice on interior decorating,” he said. “But I look at what I print my photos on — canvas, wood or metal — and I realize the difference.”
Even as his sales take off, Bond is still surprised by his success.
“I don’t really think of myself as an artist,” he said. “I’m just a guy with a camera, who lives in a beautiful place.”