Photographer Bo Bridges is something of a local legend around the beach cities. Since going pro in 1995, he’s been able to dive deep into many facets of photography, excelling in advertising, editorial work, fine arts and lifestyle. Equally comfortable underwater, flying high or on solid ground, no matter the subject, his photos always tell a story.
Now, Bridges is about to unveil—quite literally—his biggest story to date, right in his own backyard.
On Saturday, the Hermosa Beach Murals Project will reveal a multi-story mural wrapping the south and west sides of the downtown parking garage, dedicated to the history and sport of volleyball.
Bridges was one of several artists invited to submit to the project, based on the theme selected by the mural committee. He’s the first photographer to have been selected by the non-profit group, whose previous murals include odes to jazz, surfing and swimsuits.
Bridges submitted a mix of images, both commercial—showcasing competitions—and fine art in nature. But he wanted to avoid the commercial side of things if selected, a vision he shared with the mural committee during an interview.
“I wanted to keep it almost like the birthplace for volleyball and keep it clean, simple and show the beauty of the sport without saying who’s in that photo,” said Bridges.
It was important to share the essence, the story, of Hermosa volleyball, from sun-up to sun-down, fun across ages and genders. Ultimately, he selected four images—one from his archives and three new shots. He wove them together into one coherent story. The images are titled Beach Party, Family Portrait, It’s About 2’ and Under Attack.
“I just wanted to bring the beauty of the sport and show that in a grand scale,” said Bridges.
Volleyball has always been synonymous with Los Angeles for Bridges. He can recall that carefree feeling he always got walking the beaches with friends in the ’90s.
“Almost any given time, like I remember when I first got here, I would go down there and think, ‘Does anybody work? They’re always down here playing volleyball,’” said Bridges. “Good-looking, young people, cracking the ball and having fun, then these huge tournaments that come through town. I just feel like it’s such a staple in this area.”
Though not originally from California, he’s lived in Hermosa Beach since 2000 and has three children who will grow up in Hermosa Beach’s schools, the oldest of whom is 11. Born in Tampa, Bridges has lived in 24 places in his life, including high school in Switzerland and five years as a professional photographer based out of Vail, Colo. During that time, he kept coming through LA and visiting friends in Hermosa, El Porto and Venice.
When he decided in 2000 that he needed to move to New York or LA to take his career to the next level, the choice was easy. He was already traveling 150 days out of the year from Vail, and he’d fallen in love with the beach ease he saw. LAX would be an easy connection to any place in the world. Plus, he had clients in Hollywood who he would be able to access more easily, without living in the hustle and bustle of LA
“I was like, I could live there and be 15 minutes from the airport, pretty much go anywhere in the world in a day, and come back to this perfect little oasis near the ocean,” said Bridges.
Putting that feeling of place and home on such a public canvas brings it all full circle.
Preparing the mural has taken quite a bit of work. There’s the architecture and layout of the building, with stairs and pop-outs and the corner wrap, which took careful configuration. The stairs will be integrated, and pedestrians will be able to get glimpses of the mural from the sand and the pier, so each area had to be mapped out and planned to work on its own and as a part of the whole.
“You’ll get a feel for it (from anywhere),” said Bridges. “Say you’re looking at it from The Strand, you’ll see like 45 degrees of the image, but as you walk around and line up straight on with the image, you’ll get the full image bleed as a giant vertical rectangle … like you would have in a frame… But as you start to walk away from it and then walk around back to the west and north, it starts to kind of go away, but it’s big enough that you still get what it is. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’ll be really cool. It’s very complicated.”
The location itself presented challenges, particularly the west wall, which faces the elements—sand, water and wind. Erik Bond, who has worked previously with both Bridges and the Hermosa Beach Murals Project, has been instrumental in planning and designing the installation. His body of work includes wrapping Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic’s VMS Unity, so he’s accustomed to challenging surfaces.
Bridges wanted a matte finish so as not to blind passersby with a “mirror of sunshine” in the afternoon, but that meant overcoming longevity issues.
The art will be installed on concrete vinyl which should keep well, but the surface of the building was so porous that it had to be re-stuccoed and dry prior to installation. One week before the unveiling, an unseasonable heat wave presented an additional challenge. But come Saturday, all will be ready to go.
Bridges said he’s been so focused on the nitty-gritty of preparing the mural, in the midst of other projects which include opening a new fine art gallery in Vail in July, that it hasn’t really sunk in yet how huge this project is to him.
The exposure is one thing, but it’s that ultimate feeling of being accepted into Hermosa Beach and the community of artists that is so special to him. And it’s meaningful to share with his family.
“I’m totally honored that they chose me to do this,” said Bridges. “It’s a big undertaking, but it’s going to be really fun. I’m excited for what’s to come and to be a part of that. It will be up there for years to come. I’ve got three kids and I don’t know that they get it quite yet, but I feel like … once they see the unveiling and they see the imagery, some of that will sink in in terms of what I’ve worked so hard to do. I think it will be a real treat.”