The New Beverly Cinema. Photo by Pamela Chelin.

Empty Shelves, Crowded Streets, Shuttered Venues and Star Power: ‘DISPLACED’ Brings 2020 into Sharp Focus

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The virtual photo exhibit documents a year defined by unprecedented joy and loss.

Inspired by the feeling of displacement that has defined 2020, journalist Pamela Chelin has launched an online-only photo exhibit surveying life in Los Angeles over the previous year — in all its chaotic, mundane, desolate and hopeful glory.

A nighttime shot of the Capitol Records building.
The Capitol Records building illuminated in red to urge Congress to pass the RESTART ACT to help live entertainment. Photo by Pamela Chelin.

In its entirety, “DISPLACED” will feature nearly 300 photos documenting moments from L.A.’s most tumultuous year in recent history. Snapshots from pre-pandemic rock concerts, Black Lives Matter protests, Dodgers and Lakers wins and Election Day celebrations are interspersed with sidewalk scenes and iconic signs. Chelin juxtaposes the vibrant colors of L.A.’s murals and storefronts against the overwhelming emptiness of the new socially-distant norm.

Chelin describes the project as “a love letter to L.A.,” having pulled inspiration from its urban spaces and beyond. Although she did not start gathering photos with the intent of creating an end-of-year exhibit, Chelin says she felt compelled to release the images as a collection after people told her that her photos were helping them process the volatility of the year.

“I felt that when you have such abrupt changes coming all at once and so much chaos, it’s hard to emotionally process what is happening,” Chelin says. “If nothing else, 2020 has put a spotlight on how precious and fragile our lives are, how important the human connection is, and that Black lives matter and must be treated equally.”

A protester stands in the middle of a street, surrounded by motorcycles.
A Black Lives Matter protest in Hollywood. Photo by Pamela Chelin.

Chelin’s background as an entertainment journalist gives the series a tilt toward the arts — you’ll find images of famous local music venues and movie theaters, most of which still bear haunting signage announcing indefinite COVID closures. There’s also the occasional video clip: Miley Cyrus and Robby Krieger singing a tribute to The Doors and Lisa Loeb performing at Amoeba Music, to name a few.

“Live music is one of the areas that has been devastated during the pandemic,” Chelin says. “There’s almost nothing I wouldn’t do to try to help in any way I can. As much as these photos are so sad, I hope and pray that all the venues will survive and thrive again for the sake of club owners, venue staff and security, musicians, crews, and audiences. There are few things as powerful as experiencing live music and being part of the energy exchange that transpires between artists and audiences.”

Catch a glimpse of Chelin’s “DISPLACED” on Instagram.

A blue mural of George Floyd.
A mural of George Floyd in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Pamela Chelin.

Los Angeleno