A Larger-Than-Life Display Mirrors an Equally Epic Career That Reaches Far Beyond the Bubble

The big picture.

  • Category
    Arts, People
  • Interviewed by
    Darren Elms
  • Photographed by
    Bo Bridges

Hey Bo, congrats on 10 years of the gallery in Manhattan Beach. What inspired you to open the door to a public space a decade ago?

I opened my first gallery back in 2005 in Hermosa Beach. In June 2013, I opened my second gallery here in Manhattan Beach. I’ve always loved the arts, and there’s no better way to share your work than showing it on the walls in large-format print. While I was traveling around to these exotic areas with world-class athletes on photo shoots, it was just a matter of time before I started to build a large library of these beautiful playgrounds.

I get a lot of my inspiration from shooting athletes moving through their space in such a natural form. I wanted to not only share what I see in the South Bay every day but also showcase some of the other global cultures and views I am fortunate to experience with my job.

Your career dates back longer than the galleries. When did you first establish yourself as a photographer?

My first published photo was of a skier named JP Auclair for Spyder activewear back in 1997. Around that time, I shot my first X Games in Crested Butte, Colorado. I went on to shoot X Games for 20 years with the likes of Shaun White, Tony Hawk, Travis Pastrana, and the late Ken Block. Today I have one of the largest action-sport athlete archives in the world.

My big break was in 1998 when I met up with an athlete who was just signed by Mountain Dew. That was a huge stepping stone for me. I met with Pepsi’s main ad agency in New York and began shooting all kinds of national ad campaigns for them for a solid 10 years or so. I was traveling 100+ days a year all over the world, shooting both editorial and advertising. The gallery was a side passion project for me when I started, but it took on legs and now I’m pretty focused on that.

Kelly Slater

What is your favorite type of shoot?

I love getting up early in the morning right here at home and shooting. But If I had to pick a type of shooting, I would say anything water-based. I love the ocean. I love the water. Rivers, lakes, estuaries, you name it—I just love being around it, on it and in it!

Kobe Bryant

Do you have a favorite person you’ve ever worked with?

I shot with Kobe Bryant a few times. He was a true pro both on and off the court. He’d walk on to set and was so natural. He’d greet everyone and ask what we wanted to do. And then he’d just make everything effortless. I also enjoy working with Kelly Slater. He carries this mystery about him but knows what’s going on around him all the time … subtle in his ways, except when he hits the water. He’s fascinating to watch.

Of all the adventures you’ve taken around the world, which was the most epic?

Well, I still hold the Mission: Impossible shoot pretty high on my list. We shot that just north of London, England. I had been instructed to try to get some shots of Tom Cruise on the side of the airplane. I borrowed Simon Pegg’s ghillie suit from the stylist and shot on the tarmac with a long lens, trying to hide from the film crew.

The shots were cool, but I wanted to show him in the sky. Tom took a look at the photos and said, “I thought you were getting in a helicopter.” I explained the pilot told me it was too dangerous and was already at the threshold with his camera setup. So Tom gets on the radio and says, “Get Bo a helicopter.”

Bo with Tom Cruise

Next thing I know, I have a brand-new heli flown up from London ready to take me up. I take the doors off so I can shoot. We got some great shots, but it didn’t have that vertigo effect. Again, Tom checked some of the photos and said, “What do you think?” I was like, “I need to hang out of that plane with you with a wide-angle lens. The distance shots could be anyone hanging on the plane. The close-up shots will give it that sensation of height.”

That was it! Tom said, “Let’s do it!” I climbed out of the side of the Airbus 400 window, and we got the movie poster.

Any place you haven’t been that you want to get to and shoot?

Yes, I’d like to get over to the Maldives. I’ve never been, and apparently the islands are sinking. Seems to be one of those places that has everything you want to do in and around the water available at your fingertips.

How did the Downtown Manhattan Beach mural project come about?

I had an event at the gallery one night. The mayor at the time mentioned they wanted to get some new art up around town, and they had a dedicated fund for the local arts. This had to have been five years ago. I built a deck with some exclusive layouts in various locations and went back to them with some ideas. After seeing what I had done, they decided to send out a request for proposal to all artists nationwide, which made sense.

After another year or so, city officials landed on two dedicated Manhattan Beach locations. The city council voted and awarded us both locations. This took much longer than expected, especially since we started the project so long ago. Many of the vendors didn’t want to deal with the brick wall on the side of the city hall building and the idea of wrapping the artwork around the edge of the southwest corner. So they backed out of their offers.

When we finally nailed an install date, the weather just wouldn’t allow us to come in. We needed a solid five to seven days of no rain or wind. I believe it took us three weeks to complete the installation from the day we started the initial process due to wind and rain. Now that it’s finally up and complete, I’m just blown away by the size and magnitude of this fine-art installation that will live in the community for years to come.

The Manhattan Beach gallery

What’s next for you and the gallery?

It’s been a solid 10 years here at the Manhattan Beach gallery helping local business owners and homeowners cover their white walls with my custom limited-edition artworks, holding slideshows, charity events, private parties and photo workshops at the studio. My oldest son is graduating from Mira Costa this year and headed off to college. I have two more children, who are in grades 6 and 10 now. My wife, Susan, and I look forward to spending many more years here in the South Bay enjoying everything that it has to offer. This community has supported my work and passion in a way I couldn’t have imagined. I’m so grateful and excited for what’s ahead.

We will be celebrating the 10-year anniversary at the gallery with “A Decade of Work’’ most likely in July, once I can figure out a window in my busy travel schedule. In the coming year, I plan to drop a new coffee-table book, expand on our media side, and shoot new content for our dedicated social channels and branded content as well. My passion for traveling to exotic places all over the world will always be with me, and I’ll be taking the family whenever possible.