Michael Muller On Swimming With Great Whites & Moving Towards Fear

Michael Muller is Hollywood's most in-demand photographer.

But that title doesn't even begin to capture the breadth of his extraordinary, Hemingway-esque life.

It's a path defined by his commitment to curiosity. An unquenchable thirst for adventure. Unbridled creativity.

And an impulse to always, always move towards fear.

Traveling to 60 countries before he even entered high school (a count that is currently at 200), Michael spent the greater part of his childhood living in Saudi Arabia. It was there that his passion for photography blossomed. The more he saw, the more he felt drawn to capturing his experiences in imagery.

By his mid-teens that passion had already become a career, documenting the snowboarding & punk rock scenes across California. But he soon found himself behind the velvet rope in Los Angeles, documenting the next generation of silver screen superstars. But the ripe age of 22, Michael established himself as a leading Hollywood entertainment and fashion photographer. 

Today Michael is the top dog in his game — a guy who has photographed everyone who is anyone for every prominent media outlet from Vanity Fair to Esquire: Joaquin Phoenix, Brad Pitt, Jeff Bridges, Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Hugh Jackman, Bruce Willis, Scarlett Johansson, Nirvana, Leonardo DiCaprio. You get the picture.

The question isn’t who has he photographed, it’s who hasn’t he. 

That iconic photograph of Kobe Bryant bowing that graced the cover of TIME magazine in February? That’s Michael.

That blockbuster movie poster or billboard you love? Chances are that’s Michael too -- the man behind countless studio campaigns from Marvel movies to Inherent Vice.

But Michael’s truest passion — and a primary focus of today’s exchange — is sharks. Specifically, great whites. Documenting them on film. Understanding them. Educating others about them. And most importantly, preserving them.

This conversation is about so many things.

It’s of course a recap of Michael’s unbelievable life, which is more adventure novel than a resume.

It’s about the nature of creativity. It’s about what drives him — his philosophies on work, passion, service — and the incredible power of the image to shape culture.

It's about his relationship with fear. PTSD. And how swimming with sharks changed his relationship with himself and the natural environment we all share.

It’s also keenly focused on preserving our oceans, specifically protecting our sharks, 100 million of which are killed every year. These apex predators are beyond vital to our ocean’s ecosystem, and without them, you’ll soon learn, our oceans will crumble.

But more than anything, this conversation is about what the great whites represent: fear.

It's about why the only way to overcome this debilitating emotion is to move towards it. To face it head-on.

The visually inclined can watch our exchange on YouTube. And as always, the podcast streams wild and free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Charismatic and larger than life, Michael is unlike any previous guest I've hosted on this podcast. This conversation is one for the ages.

Peace + Plants,

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Thanks to this week’s sponsors

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Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, audio engineering and show notes; Margo Lubin and Blake Curtis for video, editing and graphics; portraits by Davy Greenberg;  and theme music by Tyler Piatt. Trapper Piatt & Hari Mathis.

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