Conor McGregor is a human soundbite, with numerous quotes heard and remembered around the world, but this one particular McGregor quote is louder than the rest.
“There’s no talent here, this is hard work. This is an obsession. Talent does not exist, we are all equals as human beings. You could be anyone if you put in the time. You will reach the top, and that is that. I am not talented, I am obsessed.”
Christian Tierney, McGregor’s 20-year-old videographer, can relate to his boss’s words. Tierney is a hardworking Dublin boy, just like McGregor. In fact, when McGregor was 17 years old, he moved from Crumlin to Lucan, Tierney’s hometown. “I was a big McGregor fan,” Tierney says. “He lived really close to me actually, but we never met. (He) went to school about 30 seconds from my house.
“There’s definitely a Dublin link there that separates him from other big celebrities I’ve worked with. That makes his success even more exciting for me because we’re not used to people where we’re from getting to that level of success and recognition.”
At the moment, these two Dublin boys have worked to become successful men not defined by their neighborhood. At the time I spoke with Christian, he and Conor were at the epicenter of the fighting world together in Las Vegas shooting videos and exclusive content for McGregor’s website The Mac Life ahead of McGregor’s fight (first in the boxing ring) against an undefeated Floyd Mayweather on August 26. About a year ago, Tierney found out who ran The Mac Life, reached out to him and after a small trial period was brought onto the team. Because Tierney is from the same town as McGregor, he feels there was a bit of trust there which allowed McGregor’s team to truly bring him in. His main responsibility is to make videos for the website, while occasionally also shooting photos of Conor.
McGregor lost the fight by technical knock out to undefeated (now, 50-0) Mayweather. Even so, Tierney views McGregor as “a true champion.”
While shooting the fight and events surrounding it for McGregor’s The Mac Life team, Tierney snapped candids of Karlie Kloss, Travis Scott, Orlando Bloom, and a portrait of Demi Lovato backstage after informing her of how much he loved Camp Rock. (His photos of Lovato and Scott were reposted by Complex.)
Tierney first started toying with photography and videography when he got his first cell phone at 10 years old, which had a video editing app on it. He made his first video using the phone and eventually became obsessed with the craft. He’d round up the kids on his block to act in short films. He bought a proper camcorder and learned the craft of editing so he could make respectable skateboarding trick videos like the older kids surrounding him.
By 14, a Dublin rapper named Daniel Dennehy had seen one of the skateboarding videos Tierney had been putting together and asked him to shoot his music video. “I’ve always been obsessed with music so I jumped at the opportunity to put my two passions together,” says Tierney. “Daniel actually had no idea I was 14 until my Dad drove me into the city after school one day to shoot the video,” says Tierney, “but he didn’t care what age I was as long as I could get the job done.
“My biggest inspiration at that time was Jamal Edwards who founded the music platform SBTV in London which has over half a billion views. One day he tweeted out his email address so I wrote to him straight away, telling him about myself and my goals. I wasn’t expecting him to even read my email but he replied within an hour inviting me to go to London to film some videos with him. To be validated like that by someone who I idolised at the time was a huge confidence boost that made me feel like I could actually achieve what he had achieved. It was then that I set up my own music platform in Ireland.”
If you are a manager and your artist is set to perform a show in Dublin, you will be receiving an email from Christian Tierney. He says his ears have always been good at picking up who will be the next big act. This intuition and aggressive attitude toward what he wants is what allotted him to opportunity to film Macklemore before he became Macklemore. (He has kept up that relationship and interviewed Macklemore & Ryan Lewis just last year.) Same goes for James Bay before his smash worldwide single “Let It Go” hit.
Much like Conor McGregor has mastered the art of talking himself into opportunities he feels he deserves (the most recent and prolific example obviously being the forcing of Mayweather out of retirement to fight him for over $100 million), Tierney has no shame in asking.
“To be honest I’m not sure where that drive comes from,” says Tierney. “I’ve always been extremely competitive with myself. In school I always pushed myself to get the best grades, in sport I always wanted to be the best player on the team, so that same drive just followed over into my video and photo work. When I was that young I was never afraid to ask people for opportunities because I had nothing to lose, so I just emailed everyone I possibly could, whether that be managers, musicians, directors, presenters or anyone who could help me, asking could I shoot them or if they could give me some experience.
“Shooting people who are at the very pinnacle of their game like Conor McGregor, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, etc., is extremely inspiring and it definitely gives me determination to strive to be as good as they are in what I do. I’m so grateful that I have access to people like that.”
Most recently, he received an unexpected nod from The Weeknd. When posting a photo to his Instagram on July 26, The Weeknd made sure that all 14.6 million of his followers, and anyone else who saw the photo, knew Christian Tierney was the man responsible for the shot. “Getting a post and tag from The Weeknd was a massive validation,” he says. “I’m a huge fan of his and he very rarely reposts photographers and even more rarely does he credit them, so that was an incredible boost. The only real way to be discovered as a music photographer is through photo credits so tagging photographers is really important.”
As a follow-up act, Tierney attended The Weeknd’s PUMA x XO collection launch event in Las Vegas on August 14 for the star singer’s official unveiling of his upcoming line with Puma.
“I absolutely love my job,” Tierney told a Zeminar Conference crowd in Dublin on June 12. “It’s the best thing in the world, and people always come up to me and say, ‘You’re so lucky to have a job that you love.’ I think that’s absolutely ridiculous. I think that everyone should be able to have a job that you love.”
Tierney backs that talk up with action. “My goal was always to work with the most talented people in the world,” he explains of his young but booming career, “but I’m just as passionate about helping the best undiscovered talent reach their full potential. The ethos of my YouTube channel was always to feature world famous artists alongside amazingly talented but unknown Irish artists to help them gain the recognition they deserve. That’s the work that I’m most proud of.”
While currently working and enjoying his time with McGregor’s The Mac Life, Tierney’s heart belongs to music. He plans to continue pursuing every opportunity he can to film music’s elite and music’s unknown, all the same.
“It’s impossible for me to pick a favourite moment,” he reflects. “I’ve been in so many amazing situations over the last few years that I never would have thought I’d be in in a million years, never mind before I turn 21 and I’ll never take that for granted.”
Feature image by Alex Hutchinson