Van Bo

Submitted to Fanatic
Uploaded 11 Oct 2007
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© Rhett Redelings
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Comments 12
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Photo Info
UploadedOctober 12, 2007
TakenSeptember 12, 2007
MakePentax Corporation
ModelPENTAX *ist DS
Exposure1/250 sec at f/6.7
FlashNo Flash
Focal Length55 mm
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Photo license: © All rights reserved

Bo is what we who have homes and jobs and a respectable place in respectable society, politely call "homeless". He's also, what, in "homeless people," one might call "mad". He's one of the local street characters that I've seen on an almost daily basis since I started working in Sausalito, six years ago.

Somewhere in those years, Bo started painting. At first, his canvases were very crude and I didn't think much of them, or to be shamefully honest, of him. Then, after awhile, his paintings started looking less like an affectation and like art. And he was not only painting more varied subjects with more and more advanced techniques but he was selling his work. Now, six years after he first asked me for some spare change, "Van" Bo, as he prefers to be called, is known as a local artist and his work hangs all over town. He is still homeless, though he has a car, a boat, a bicycle, a portable keyboard and painting supplies he stashes all over town. He shows in the local Art Walk and has openings, customers and fans.

In March, when I first got my Lomo, I asked if I could take his picture. I photographed him working and gave him prints a few days later. Now, when he sees me with a camera, he calls me "young man" and he tells me to photograph him so one of us will be famous. We both know he means him. I took this and a few others a few weeks ago during one such encounter, before he got bored with me. I printed them and gave them to him on what turned out to be his birthday. He called them his birthday present to himself and said he sent one to his mom so she'd see he didn't look so old and, I think, so she'd see that he is, despite whatever he's had to endure, not a victim or a bum or someone easily dismissed as "homeless" or "mad" but that he has redefined himself as a working artist and he is, if not thriving, surviving because of it.

11 responses

  • Marina Veereschild

    Marina Veereschild (Deleted) gave props (12 Oct 2007):

    His eyes are really scary! Interesting story.

  • Joseph Davis

    Joseph Davis said (12 Oct 2007):

    I swear... the text that accompanies your work makes it so much more powerful. I think that's why I like biographies so much more so than fiction. I like to know that the events I'm ready about really happened for some reason. This is an amazing shot!

  • Julia Sherburne

    Julia Sherburne gave props (12 Oct 2007):

    I keep wanting to see his art work! Thanks for sharing your (and Van's) story.

  • mark weathers

    mark weathers gave props (9 Nov 2007):

    Awesome work. I love the contrast of the background vs the subject. Van Bo's story surely makes this piece a work of art, so thank you for having the balls to make a difference.

  • seth ponek

    seth ponek said (5 Dec 2007):

    Great shot.... and I appreciate the story... It's a good one!

  • seth ponek

    seth ponek gave props (5 Dec 2007):

    Thanks for taking the time to tell the story... It really takes it to the next level.

  • Rhett Redelings

    Rhett Redelings said (12 Dec 2007):

    Thanks for all your comments and props. I'm still hoping this makes it as I'd like nothing better than to hand Bo a copy of JPG Magazine and help make him just a little bit famous.

  • John

    John said (9 Dec 2008):

    Bo Rocks!!
    I've lived in Sausalito for about 10 years. Bo's one of the most interesting people you'll ever meet. He's led a colorful life that included being a porn actor. A couple of months ago he was as a porn convention in Vegas. His next roadtrip is Obama's inauguration. I commissioned him a few years ago for $20 and six pack to do a painting for me. It's my favorite picture because it has character and history behind it. My favorite Bo quote... I ran into him the other day and asked how's it going? He responded, "would be better if I had a Cadillac and two fat chicks". We can all learn something from Bo

  • Loren Umbertis

    Loren Umbertis said (20 Nov 2009):

    Rhett, I have an original Van Bo of the PSF that he painted on a door, it will hang proudly on my wall...

  • Rhett Redelings

    Rhett Redelings said (22 Nov 2009):

    Hi Loren,

    I think I know the one you mean. I'm envious.

    Sadly, I don't have any of his work. Isn't that shameful? I should commission him to do something for me that isn't a golden gate bridge thing.

  • Sarah Page

    Sarah Page said (12 Jan 2010):

    ♥ Van Bo!

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