It took luck — and uncanny timing — for Santa Monica-based photographer Denny Fanning to capture what would become one of the most iconic pieces in his series 72 and Sunny

Fanning describes how his preparation helped him seize a moment that almost didn’t occur. 

“A few years ago I uncharacteristically woke up before dawn and drove north to Malibu on an empty PCH,” he said. “I sat on the beach excited for the sunrise and the images I might capture. I took a few perfectly nice photos of surfers, fishermen and shorebirds, but nothing that I was excited about.” 

Fanning faced a challenge common to Southern California artists who inhabit one of the most photographed places in the world: how do you reveal something interesting and new from a place that millions of people have “seen” for decades?

“I started walking back to my car when I spotted the man with the red bodyboard rinsing off. I wanted to photograph the scene head-on, but I was about 20 feet away from the position.”

Fanning started running “slowly and awkwardly” to get in position. 

“I was afraid I was going to miss the shot, but I made it to my spot and snapped the photo that you see in this gallery. A second later he moved on and I would have missed the shot.”

The result, Surfer 02, encapsulates the vibrance and solitude of West Coast living amidst the stark geometry of Malibu’s beachside. Together with the other pieces in 72 and Sunny, Fanning renders a meditation on what it’s like to live on LA’s westside.

Image: “Surfer 02” by Denny Fanning; Malibu, California, 2018.