A trip to LA is a fascinating, eye-opening experience. Full of quirky characters under seemingly endless blue skies, it's perfect for people watching. Tragically, it's also a place that exposes the vast gap between America's rich and poor, bringing with it a wealth of problems. It's a city that really has seen it all.
But when lockdown began earlier this year, in a bid to fight Covid-19 and save lives, local photographer Robert Gallagher, who is used to the colourful nature of Los Angeles, noticed something quite different: a man walking around his neighbourhood in Santa Monica hugging trees. "I knew something unusual was happening – people acting outside of their normal selves as a way to cope. Sometimes strange. Sometimes comedic. But often visual," Robert tells us.
"It almost appeared to me like that man was hanging onto the tree for dear life as if the last man on the deck of the Titanic. The visual metaphor resonated with me as a way to illustrate how we're processing our lives right now."
After that, Robert spent some time just walking or cycling around his neighbourhood with a Fuji X100 camera, observing and absorbing – street photography with a very specific, yet unknown, objective in mind. The result is a series called Strange Days. "The people of Santa Monica, the birthplace of skate culture and the original Muscle Beach, are used to a social, healthy, outdoor lifestyle. So how would they react?" says Robert.
"As we learn to cope with a whole new normal, I'm seeking out the visual cues that speak so much of our emotions within this changing human experience. It's an ongoing project, and for as long as I see people expressing themselves in a 'Covid-specific' way, I'll keep working on it. A portrait of adaptability of who we were as a society under Covid-19. These are strange days indeed."
Born in London, Robert Gallagher is an award-winning Los Angeles based photographer best known for his iconic portraiture and raw reportage style. With a portfolio including Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Charlize Theron, and clients such as Ferrari, Nike and Paramount Pictures, athletes are still his favourite subject: "You just can't fake that kind of intensity," he remarks.
He's also been known to spend time documenting bounty hunters, covering Hurricane Katrina and the attacks of September 11. Robert has exhibited in Paris, London and Los Angeles, and is archived in the permanent collection of The National Portrait Gallery in London. Find out more at gallagherphoto.com.