It’s hard work trying to classify Andre Musgrove. As director of underwater photography, photographer, Ocean Photography Awards judge, professional freediver and underwater stuntman, to say his career is varied would be an understatement. Born and raised in the Bahamas, where he is still based today, his experience and knowledge has led him to work on projects with Discovery Channel, National Geographic, GoPro, Canon, Rolex and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Here he tells us how he got so comfortable in the water and what it takes to get the perfect shot when grappling with the ocean and its wildlife.
From underwater stuntman to TV presenter, you have a very varied career – what do you think is your dominant role?
I would say my most dominant career is underwater photography and cinematography.
You recently judged the Ocean Photography Awards, what are you looking for when trying to select and get award winning shots?
For me, when I take my own photos, I’m looking for the composition, the color (because color usually gets lost very easily underwater, so when it’s there it really stands out) and basically how much the photo can be unique or hard to come by depending on what the photographer or models need to do. These are the things I would use when photographing my own work and when judging other work as well.
What did it take to get here?
I was born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas, and much of my free time was spent snorkeling and spearfishing with my dad on the boat on weekends. And most of my friends and people my age have never done what I did. So I had to tell them stories after the adventures were over. So that encouraged me to pick up a camera to share these experiences with my friends who weren’t able to call them or were not even interested in them until I showed them the videos.
And that was basically my introduction to my underwater photography / underwater cinematography role. I just started with a small GoPro action camera. I took it wherever I went when I was snorkeling, spearfishing, and then I got my diving certificate and I got into it. Then, after I graduated from high school, I started working at a local dive shop that had an underwater photography lab.
It was kind of a training ground for me for what I’m doing now. I learned a lot more about high quality gear and shooting different things for production companies, working with sharks, doing a lot of scuba diving, working with tourist divers as well. I worked there for two years and then I quit to become self-employed and do my own thing like [an] underwater photographer and cinematographer, working as [a] private dive guide when I had the time.
What are the common misconceptions about your profession?
I think some people think it’s very straightforward and easy to understand, which it isn’t, especially if you’re shooting in the ocean. Shooting in a swimming pool or just with a little waterproof phone is completely different from being in the ocean and having to work and understand wildlife in a way that captures those moments. Plus, whether you’re scuba diving or snorkeling, it makes a big difference. On top of that, the equipment itself is quite expensive because not only do you buy the camera, but you also have to buy the underwater components to make sure everything is safe.