These Photos Capture a Desolate Los Angeles Amid Covid-19

Although the lights are on, access to Santa Monica Pier has been blocked
Although the lights are on, access to Santa Monica Pier has been blocked | © Adam Amengual / Culture Trip
Alex Wexelman

Staff Writer

Photographer Adam Amengual captures the desolation of Los Angeles by showcasing the city’s classic landmarks, from the Griffith Observatory to the TCL Chinese Theatre and its Hollywood Walk of Fame, emptied amid a Covid-19 lockdown.

With each new day, Covid-19 brings more uncertainty. It’s been less than a week since photographer Adam Amengual drove around Los Angeles to document the city’s most famous landmarks and already much has changed – and not for the better. He describes what he saw as he explored his city.

While the public grapples with the severity of this pandemic, people still need to retain some vestige of normalcy. In LA that means exercising. “People love being outside here,” Amengual says. Apart from joggers and the stray influencer wannabe, the streets were empty.

“A lot of this felt like it was January 1st. Businesses were closed. There were people enjoying the day, not having to work. But then some of the busier business districts in some of the photos, particularly Melrose, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Rodeo Drive, were desolate.”

“Rodeo Drive almost felt like I was on a backlot at Paramount. It’s so pristine and clean and manicured and there was just a scattering of people walking around taking advantage of the quiet by taking faux-model shoots. That was kind of weird.”

Griffith Observatory

“At Griffith Observatory, people were up there just exercising. I’ve been up to the Griffith Observatory before, but not in the morning time when everyone is working out. The entire building was shut off. It’s roped off with signs talking about why it’s closed.”

“In some of these pictures where people are pairing off, I couldn’t tell if they were people living together or not. But people were standing in their little groups of two or three.”

“We’ve had a lot of rain here in the last few weeks. It really helps with visibility and because there’s no traffic, the views were pretty amazing. Especially these hilltop areas. From the Griffith Observatory, I could see the ocean clearly.”

Malibu Pier

On Malibu Pier, Amengual found the same sort of small social interactions. “People are just off in their little pairs, walking the pier,” he says. “It was a beautiful day.”

TCL Chinese Theatre

“Usually, the TCL Chinese Theatre is where they host giant premieres and there’s people dressed up in character outfits: Spider-Man, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe. None of those people were out, at all. I hung out in this area for a half hour. Two security guards walked by, two police officers, four or five homeless people and two people walking dogs. It was really desolate.”

“Usually this area stresses me out. This little strip I’d compare to LA’s version of Times Square. Usually I’m like ‘Oh god, it’s going to be a bunch of crazy people. People trying to sell me stuff, people asking for money.’ Instead, it was so calm and peaceful. But a little creepy. There’s a giant mall just to the right and they were still playing mall music.”

“That’s the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You can see all the stars. It’s pretty crazy how dead this is. It was spooky in a way.”

Melrose Avenue

“Melrose was so quiet. I probably saw four people the whole time I was there.”

“The Paul Smith store is one of those places that people just come to take their Instagram photos. Usually people are waiting turns to take pictures in front of that wall and there was nobody.”

“At David Yurman, all the jewelry was taken out of the displays, which happens at night, but this was the middle of the day so it had this weird feeling.”

The Beverly Hills Hotel

“They wouldn’t let me take any pictures [at the Beverly Hills Hotel]. I asked if I could go in because they have a nice, outdoor café, but they weren’t allowing anybody who wasn’t currently a guest into the building as some sort of safer-in-place policy.”

Santa Monica

“I don’t know if it’s because fewer people out means less food, but the seagulls seemed more intense when I was out. They were swarming.”

“In Santa Monica, there’s an adult swing set area. They’re shaped like rings and adult-sized. There’s monkey bars even. But what they had done, obviously because of everything that’s going on, they had taken down all the swings. People did set up slack lines, though.”

“At the Santa Monica Pier, they were keeping the lights on, but it was totally shut down. All the stairs had been blocked with caution tape and barriers and they wouldn’t let anybody go up.”

“This is the convergence of where the 405 and the 10 meet. It’s pretty not busy for 4.30 in the afternoon. No matter what time of the day, no matter what day of the week, you’re just like ‘Why is there traffic right now?’ But that day, there was no traffic.”

Venice Beach

“The skate park in Venice was really empty for a weekend. Usually, it’s packed with people watching the skaters and this was in the afternoon, too. It would have easily been at least 60 to 70 people watching under normal circumstances, but there were maybe about 10 or 12.”

Pacific Coast Highway

“On the Pacific Coast highway, there were a lot of cyclists out that day to take advantage of the lack of traffic as well.”

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