The "Lost" NCO: Hawaiian resident lives his dream
November 5, 2010
- Staff Sgt. Tim Burton, a civil affairs NCO deployed to Basra, Iraq, acted in several episodes of the TV show "Lost" as an extra.
- Burton's civilian job is as a professional photographer, and he has photographed many celebrities and sporting events in Hawaii.
- In addition to civil affairs, Burton has also served as an air defense artilleryman and a journalist in the Army.
BASRA, Iraq - A small-scale television 'star,' a professional free-lance photographer and a civil affairs noncommissioned officer with United States Division-South, Staff Sgt. Tim Burton is a many-faceted individual.
Burton is a resident of Mililani, Hawaii, and a United States Army reservist with the 322nd Civil Affairs Battalion from Fort Shafter, Hawaii attached to the 1st Infantry Division in Basra as the Commanders Emergency Response Program noncommissioned officer-in-charge.
The 37-year-old Burton, a freelance professional photographer who settled in Hawaii more than 20 years ago, appeared as an extra on the television show 'Lost' for the last three seasons.
The former air defense artillery Soldier and photojournalist said he never had any interest in pursuing acting and had just stumbled on the job as an extra for the show while doing some photography work for a modeling and acting agency.
"Everything has been a stepping stone," Burton said, "by photographing celebrities for the mayor of Honolulu, it led to bigger assignments, eventually for an agency with a leading client such as 'Lost.'"
"The casting director needed a photographer for a particular scene," Burton said, "and since we already had been working together, she called me up. I thought it would be fun and interesting. It's been an adventure."
As a professional photographer who spends most of his time behind the camera, at times photographing celebrities from the likes of Bob Hope, John Denver, Jackie Chan, and Jennifer Love Hewitt, Burton got a glimpse in front of one.
"I was quiet, just took directions, stayed out of trouble," Burton said. "Many extras chase acting as a career and are always trying to get camera time. I guess by doing the opposite the director asked me to return for a second role on the same day. That's rare."
For Burton, some scenes have been more memorable than others while working on the show.
"I got to do a one-on-one role with Evangeline Lilly," Burton said. "That's when she introduced herself to me. In the morning I was a photographer with a beard, by the evening I was a clean-shaven-sheriff who handcuffed and walked her down the hallway of cells."
"She's awesome, very personable. It was a humbling experience."
Surrounded by television stars, Burton discovered how simple and real the actors are.
"Among all the actors, I would have to say that Jorge Garcia was the most conversational," Burton said. "I remember sitting with him, talking about what the snacks were and he asked how my day was going. He is in real life, as he is on camera, down-to-earth."
As humble as they come, Burton also works as an official National Football League photographer and has travelled to approximately 20 different countries.
If his plate was not full enough, Burton chose to work part-time for Hawaiian Airlines, which complements his travel photography.
"Since I love nature and travel photography, I thought it would be great," Burton said, "to fly out there, shoot in someplace like San Francisco, then fly back for free."
While on active duty, Burton was part of a team attempting to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records by executing push-ups for 24 hours.
"We were on the news, published in 'Muscle & Fitness' magazine and got a great experience from the whole thing," Burton said. "I can't remember the exact number of push-ups we did, but it was shy of 10,000."
For over a decade, he has captured images of celebrities, fashion shows, accepted magazine assignments, and shared his experience with the world through his eyes, but Burton proudly serves in the Army with 19 years under his belt, all a part of his dream.
His current assignment isn't nearly as glamorous as hanging out on the set of "Lost," but Burton considers it just as fulfilling. He spends at least 12 hours a day, seven days a week helping U.S. units in southern Iraq with the paperwork needed to complete essential construction and development projects for the Iraqi people.
"Being an extra on 'Lost' was just living another chapter of my life," Burton said. "What I'm doing now, serving my country, being a photographer, traveling, living adventurously, has always been my purpose in life, second to Family."
"Chasing my dreams, I love living life."