Walk into the Surfrider Gallery (on the second floor at the end of the Malibu Pier), and be surrounded by huge, dramatic photos of horses running through water, and smoke, and across fields. The exhibit is stunning and beautiful. It is the end result of a seven-year-long effort by renowned photographer Michael Muller, and this is the first showing of his “horse project” photos to the public.
The opening night last Thursday evening (Nov. 10) featured a reception with many of Muller’s friends, as well as art collectors and clients, including Malibu’s big wave surfer Laird Hamilton and professional beach volleyball player Gabrielle Reece.
Muller, 52, has been a highly successful commercial photographer for the past 35 years — since he was teenager — shooting photos for snowboarding, the music industry, advertising, the entertainment industry, movie posters, fashion, and iconic sports figures.
According to his official “bio,” Muller’s celebrity portraits of Joaquin Phoenix, Brad Pitt, Jeff Bridges, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson and hundreds of others have been published in the pages and on the covers of magazines that include Vanity Fair, Elle, Rolling Stone, Harper’s Bazaar, Flaunt, Filter, Esquire, Interview, and New York Times Magazine.
Muller has also created advertising print campaigns for a number of major companies, including Samsung, Turkish Air, Speedo, Nike, Aston Martin, Billabong, Oakley, and Range Rover.
“I have 28 million photos in my archive,” he related in a personal interview.
But this is just his “day job.” For fun, Muller is usually pursuing a “passion project” in his spare time.
“I have no client or art director on the side telling me what to do,” he says.
One of his first passion projects was close-up underwater shark photography, where he invented and patented a special studio lighting system for underwater photos. The result of that work, which took over 20 years,was published in his book “Sharks.”
His latest passion project, which he has done for the past six or seven years, is photographing horses. When it comes to horses, “It was love at first sight,” he said. A number of his photos were taken locally at Malibu’s One Gun Ranch, but he’s also traveled far and wide throughout the West to capture images at a preserve for wild horses and wild horses in general.
Muller expects to have a horse book out in about two years, with ambitious travel plans to 25 or 30 additional locations for additional horse photo shoots in Mongolia, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Alaska.
Muller, a surfer with a second home on Point Dume, says he’s been coming to Malibu for the past 35 years. He’s originally from northern California with a primary residence in LA. He was connected to One Gun Ranch owners and business partners Alice Bamford and Ann Eysenring through an assignment to photograph horses on the ranch. (They originally purchased the 20-acre property in 2008 from Guns’ N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum).
The two women also have concessions on the Malibu Pier, including the Ranch at the Pier stores at the end of the Pier. The Surfrider Gallery, part of the Ranch at the Pier complex, where Muller’s photos are now being exhibited, is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.