The Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles is filled with dozens of restaurants that depend on the neighborhood’s status as a major foodie destination in the evenings and the tens of thousands of office workers that flood the neighborhood during lunch hour. But in the early days of the coronavirus lockdown all those people disappeared and the area became a virtual ghost town.
The neighborhood’s small population of residents was not really enough to sustain so many eateries. Places that were normally filled with diners and lines out the door suddenly sat empty.
These are the hastily hand-made signs that began popping up in the windows of those restaurants that remained open, to remind residents and passers by that they were there and that they were open, as they struggled to survive.
As a resident of Downtown Los Angeles, I was shocked, as many others were, at how deserted the streets became as the hundreds of thousands of people who normally commute into the neighborhood stopped coming.
I had a strong desire to document the situation. But I also sensed that photographs of empty streets would quickly become played out as these scenes were being played out in cities all over the world.
I struggled for a time as I wanted to find a way to bring a human element into the situation while at the same time I had absolutely no desire to get anywhere near other people to photograph them during this pandemic. I wanted to feel close to the neighborhood without getting close to anybody.
As I noticed these signs going up I could see a very human struggle of survival playing out in my neighborhood, through these hand-made signs, something more visceral and personal to me than sweeping panoramas of empty streets.