Luis de Jesus Los Angeles: Pandemic Portraits


Pandemic Portraits

With over 583,000 lives lost, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on all of us. Like many, I have found it difficult to create work in the manner I was accustomed to since much of my own work takes place in archives, libraries, and museums — most of which have been closed or have restricted access.

As the weeks and months continue to roll by, I am reminded of those lost or impacted by another crisis, the AIDS pandemic, and like many, I have seen very few people since Los Angeles went into lockdown in March. As a result of these conditions, I began thinking about mortality, community, and isolation. I set up my studio to be as safe as possible and began taking portraits of individuals. The studio has a wall of windows, a fan, and enough room to place a backdrop and a camera fifteen feet apart. I wear a mask.

The portraits are of actors, artists, arts professionals, an attorney, dancers, influencers, models, trainers, writers, and friends. I shoot them mask-on and mask-off. The setting offers a chance for human connection, a chance to catch up or meet someone new, and has been both an incredible challenge and a lot of fun.

There is a degree of trust required in even the safest of conditions and I have greatly valued the opportunity to photograph these creative and giving spirits in a time when so many of us are facing unimagined new challenges every day. During this period, we have had an earthquake, unbearably smokey skies, blistering heat waves, and no small amount of instability.  For me, the portraits are about survival, celebration, but most of all, the beauty of the everyday.

Ken Gonzales-Day
Los Angeles, October 2020

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