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The 10-Year-Anniversary of Our Very First Boot Shoot


Co-Founder Mariae Bui took our very first boot shoot photo ten years ago today. For our five founders, lacing up a pair of combat boots was a visual way to say thank you and express gratitude to all those that have served our country.

And since that first boot shoot a decade ago, the needs of the military community have changed. Mariae shares more about the past of Boot Campaign, where we are today and why we’re not done yet.

It’s a little known fact that the very first person to slip off her cowboy boots and lace up some combat boots for what we coined the Boot Campaign “boot shoot” was a local Texas songwriter by the name of Kacey Musgraves on October 24, 2009.

Us Boot Girls had just dreamt up a new photo campaign to visually show gratitude to our service men and women. We went up to every single performer that evening (Kacey Musgraves, Heidi Newfield, Joe Nichols and Big D and Bubba) and asked if they would be willing to take some time out of their evening to be a part of our gratitude campaign, and without hesitation, everyone accepted. I remember clearly how my heart was caught up in my throat that night, because I was so nervous photographing the performers… and also the weirdness of asking them right then and there to take off their own personal footwear to wear combat boots with their stage outfits for the photo. But I soon realized there was no need to be nervous, because we all shared the same sentiment. Since that night, 10 years ago, I have watched our little gratitude photo campaign grow to include hundreds of celebrities and notable figures across almost every industry you can think of.

As one of the five Original Boot Girls, (and the photographer for almost all the boot shoots the first few years of Boot Campaign), I get asked often which shoot was my favorite, and I’ve never really given a straight answer. My answer has always been, “all of them are my favorites, I can’t decide.”  But that’s not necessarily true, so I’ll give my answer now.

My favorite, out of all the ones I have ever done, was Marcus Luttrell’s very first Boot Campaign “boot shoot.”  

He’s had a few with me over the years, but the first photoshoot with Marcus was definitely something so meaningful and precious that I’ve kept it hidden in my heart all these years.  As many of you may know, Boot Campaign was inspired by Marcus’ book, Lone Survivor. Boot Girl Sherri had shared the book with me and said, “YOU NEED TO READ THIS!” I remember reading it and then decided to also listen to the audiobook on the entire drive to the session with Marcus (it was a 2 hour drive). As we were pulling up to the property, I saw Mama Luttrell sitting astride a horse in the middle of the road, with her long hair fluttering in the wind. Marcus and Rigby sat on the porch waiting for us – just the way it was described in the book. That photo session lasted for hours. Probably way longer than it needed to be, but it felt so important to me that I get it RIGHT. I’m not sure what it was I was looking for, or what the definition of “right” would be. How can I possibly describe the feeling of getting the opportunity to photograph someone whose story has inspired a part of your life? And what would that final picture look like? I’m still working on that.  

Since those first few boot shoots 10 years ago, the world has changed and evolved. Kacey has since won Grammy awards, I’ve photographed Marcus many more times with regular heartbeats, and the Boot Campaign’s visual gratitude effort has bloomed to include personal boot shoots that people from all over have shared with us. We still have the official boot shoots going strong, but we also have something more, beyond our expectations. The graduate wearing combat boots in the graduation photo. The bride and her wedding party all in combat boots on her wedding day. The families hiking in combat boots through the mountains during summer vacation. The ones where individuals are trading their regular footwear for Boot Campaign’s combat boots and then SHARING with us how THEY are embodying the Boot Campaign’s spirit of “living laced up” every day. Now those are the boot shoots I LOVE to see the most.