My first introduction to Mario Gorman was back in 2011 when I was in Albuquerque shooting a scene report for Ride issue 179. He had all the tell-tale characteristics of a rider with a BMX racing background—he rode fast with confidence, in full control, and he snapped turndowns with ease. Fast forward a few years and he moved out to Long Beach, where due to conflicting schedules we never really had much face time. But then I started to see photos he was shooting on Instagram under the moniker Smokedsignals. It seemed like only overnight Mario had learned to shoot photos and developed his own style as well. And well, now I'm a fan of both Mario the bike rider and Mario the photographer. Catch up on the latest of a long line of great BMX photographers from New Mexico and peep more of our Photographer Spotlights here…
Name: Mario Gorman
Location: Long Beach, CA
Years shooting: 3 years
Years riding: 19 years
Tell us a little about your BMX background?
I raced for about half the time I’ve been riding, so it’s a completely different story on both sides. In between riding and racing BMX I raced motocross as well for a few years.
When and how did you get into shooting photos?
Growing up I’ve always been intrigued by pictures from magazines and always wanted to recreate what I saw. I was always involved with a camera filming, but not until three years ago did I start shooting digital. I wish I learned film first, but I skipped the step and bought a Canon Rebel t3i. From there is where I learned the basics and shot everything in my path.
How do you think living and riding in the Long Beach/LA area has influenced you as a photographer?
The people I meet through riding out here have had a big influence on me. A lot of my photos are portraits of friends or new people I meet. Most of them ride bikes so it works out when getting a riding photo. I’m just really stoked to be out here. Even though I work, it feels like it’s been a five year vacation.
How would you describe your style?
I really don’t know how I could describe it. I’m still developing and finding my path in the photography world. I love shooting riding photos, but at the same time, I’d like to branch out to other areas such as documentary and fashion photography. All I can do is keep shooting.
When I first started seeing your photos on Instagram it was mostly candids and portraits, a lot of stuff shot into the sun—and not too many riding photos until more recently. Was that just a coincidence or was your focus more on non-riding stuff at the time?
I always wanted to shoot riding photos but I had to start with portraits. I was still learning how to use my camera, so my actions shots weren’t very good in the beginning. A lot of my sun portraits were test shots that I took until I got the result I wanted.
Tell us about Smoked Signals…
It goes back to still figuring out my style. It’s my creative outlet.
Growing up in New Mexico around BMX photographers Wes McGrath and Alex Jaquez, do you think you got some motivation or influence from those guys?
Yes, definitely! They are both amazing photographers with their own distinctive style. RIP to my friend Trip—his photos inspired me a lot. I feel a lot of talented photographers are coincidentally from New Mexico. One was Sam Adams, who’s had a huge impact on my photography. Chris Mortenson is another whose style I’m fascinated by. It’s really cool to see these guys I looked up to continuing to shoot and seeing their style progress. That motivates me to get better.
Give us a quick breakdown of your gear…
Canon 5d mk1, Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens, Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens, Quantum Q flash T5D-R with a Quantum turbo SC battery, Manfrotto bag and tripod. I’ve still got a lot of gear to add to my collection, but it gets the job done.
What is one piece of gear you own that you couldn't live without?
It would have to be my 40mm. It takes amazing portraits and is a good long lens when shooting bmx. It’s really light and pretty compact.
And what is one piece of gear you'd really like to get?
A newer 5D, maybe a Mark 2 or 3. I need to get with the times so I can make more videos. I’ve been on the Mark 1 for too long.
How do you split up your time between riding and shooting?
For the most part, I like to keep my camera with me at all times when I go out to ride, so it’s not split up too much. I just can’t be blasting curbs to the next spot.
Does it ever get hard for you to put your bike down in the middle of a good session to shoot a photo?
Not too much. I get really stoked when someone wants to get something done. I don’t mind putting the bike down at all.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Skateboard photographers inspire me the most. Atiba Jefferson is one of my biggest inspirations. Matt Price and Oliver Barton are a couple more. In BMX Jeff Z., Sam Adams, Wes McGrath, Trip, Mortenson, Eisa Bakos, and Devin Feil are who I primarily look to for inspiration.
What riders do you enjoy shooting with?
Cody Scott Perry, Tom Villarreal, Adam Accardi, Nate Richter, Ryan Pipkin, Johnny Atencio, all the Stranger crew are cool. These guys are always down to shoot with me and it's always a good time hanging out with them.
What form of BMX do you enjoy shooting the most?
I love all forms of BMX and want to shoot them all in the future, but personally, I like to be out in the streets.
Do you enjoy shooting photos of anything else other than BMX?
Yes, I shoot a lot of portraits when I’m not shooting BMX. I’ll take candids of my friends just hanging out in the moment.
Do you want to give any shout outs to your homies and people who have helped you get to where you are today?
My family first—without their support I would not be here. Also every person who I’ve ever shot with. Chris Mortenson, Nate Richter, Mario Carrasco are a few who definitely helped me out. Also Jeff Z. for asking me to do this. Thanks, man.