Six years ago, Kevin Kirk was sat behind an office desk and was delivered the news nobody wants – redundancy. His days of developing corporate partnerships in banking and insurance were abruptly over. Whilst a major setback, Kirk sensed an opportunity to reinvent himself on a completely different career path which would ultimately take him back to his golfing roots.
Fast forward a year and a diploma in photography was the first part of Kirk’s master plan. With a passion for golf – deep-rooted from growing up on the historic links in St Andrews – and his proposition background, he plotted out a plan to combine all three. “I had an idea, at the time some basic camera gear and a determination to turn redundancy into a positive outcome”. “Maybe back then I also took a bit of risk!”
His throw of the dice has certainly paid off.
With his business now including a new, exclusive arrangement as photography supplier for St Andrews Links’ Official Photography Service, Kirk is running a unique, ambitious brand that continues to expand in these uncertain times. He has even been rubbing shoulders with former US president Barack Obama and movie star Mark Wahlberg.
It sure beats the desk job.
“It’s funny when you look back,” continues Kevin, speaking from his mobile digital darkroom after a rare tournament assignment at the WGC – Mexico Championship in February. “I remember flying home from a concert in Madrid and my buddy and I threw around some names on what to call this idea. Quite literally, we landed with Recounter – ‘to tell the story of’ – its definition, purpose and goal.
“I probably created a photography business before I was a photographer,” he admits. “I figured photography was already a busy market, so I tagged a product into our offering, and that’s when we created the handmade photo book for golf buddy trips coming to Scotland. We also needed a shooting style – capturing reaction over action would be the Recounter philosophy.”
Starting out, Kirk leaned heavily on his partnership background and soon gathered support from a small group of golf tour operators, who saw the value in adding their logo onto one of Recounter’s handmade in Scotland photo books. “Through our photo books, we essentially helped market Scotland as the go-to global golf destination as we knew golfers would show them to their buddies – we even shipped them without presentation boxes to ensure they got maximum exposure on the coffee table!”.
While he needed to rely on other photography income, it was clear his ‘buddy’ concept was taking off. He took the plunge on trips to the PGA Show in Orlando, exhibiting Recounter next to industry leading brands. “If I’m honest, I felt a little out my depth next to the likes of Gleneagles, Turnberry and VisitScotland, but I had to start somewhere”.
Within a couple of years, The Golf Channel featured Recounter as a ‘top travel product’ at the 2016 PGA Show. Morning Drive’s Matt Ginella, who to this day remains a fan, describes Recounter’s style as “very subtle and very much ‘fly on the wall’ where you don’t even know they’re there”. Assignments with leading companies followed. “Our guests loved telling us Recounter’s photo book was the best gift they’d ever received from an event we hosted,” says Rich Leviss of ESPN.
Then throw in regular high profile assignments Kirk lands through his relationship with St Andrews Links, The Home of Golf. He exclusively captured Niall Horan on the Old Course and the pop icon shared his Swilcan Bridge image to his millions of followers. Heck, he was even chosen to be inside Obama’s protection cordon to capture official St Andrews Links photography of him playing the Old Course – an appearance that obviously generated global headlines – and spent two days with Wahlberg on his visit to the famous corner of Fife.
As you do.
A further opportunity came in early 2018, appointed as St Andrews Links’ exclusive photography supplier for their new Official Photography Service. This tie up, promoted via Recounter’s debut short film at the PGA Show in January, has strengthened Recounter’s credentials on the golf industry map. St Andrews Links’ Official Photography Service is an industry-leading move and is only available to golfers playing the Old Course who have booked a commercial tee time through one of St Andrews Links’ Authorised Providers.
“We strive to deliver memorable experiences to every golfer at the Home of Golf on a daily basis and are constantly looking at ways we can enhance our offering,” says Laurie Watson, Head of Communications at St Andrews Links. “In order to deliver a five-star service, we were pleased to secure the services of Recounter, led by Kevin, and his experienced team. Golfers’ feedback has been fantastic about the entire experience and we look forward to another great year in 2019.”
So, for Kirk, what has been the key to success to date? “From a photography perspective, the key has been marketing our service as a product not a photographer, creating a differentiator and an identity. We’ve turned down certain photography jobs, not because we can’t do it, more so we don’t cross the lines on the product we offer. This doesn’t mean we’ll stand still, we’ll just continue to strengthen our product and get better at what we do”.
Six years on and Recounter marches on. Kirk continues: “I have two fantastic colleagues in Matthew Thompson and Gavin Craigie who have helped take our business to the next level and we have just recruited Kirsty Erskine and Andrew Arthur for the season ahead. With the Fujifilm X equipment and expertise we’ve assembled, we’ll also dip our toes into the world of film-making under our new entity Recounter Media Limited”.
For Recounter, the story is to be continued.