VIRUS DIARY: From red carpets to empty streets, and back

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2020 Invision

Yifei Liu, star of the new live-action "Mulan," poses for photographers at the premiere of the film at the El Capitan Theatre, Monday, March 9, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

LOS ANGELES – On the last normal night in Hollywood, there was one couple wearing masks. It was novel enough that I shot a photo of them. I had no idea they would soon be all of us.

It was March 9, 2020, and the premiere of Disney’s live-action “Mulan” brought a packed red carpet to the Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, where as an entertainment photographer for The Associated Press, I had shot the Oscars four weeks earlier. Stars posed up close with big clusters of fans for a crush of dozens of photographers.

A year has passed. Nothing like it has happened since.

Two nights later, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, two people I’d shot often, announced they had been diagnosed with the coronavirus, giving a familiar face to the growing pandemic. The entertainment industry, along with most of the U.S., would shut down within days.

I was worried not just about doing my job, but whether I’d even keep it. I was an absurdity: an entertainment photographer in a time with no entertainment.

Yet in its place, history was happening. And what photographer doesn’t dream of capturing that?

So for weeks I wandered through formerly crowded streets, shooting the eerie emptiness of Rodeo Drive, and a Hollywood Boulevard that was suddenly stark and desolate.

As spring turned to summer, some forms of entertainment began emerging. I shot amateur violinists and pianists playing for neighbors from their yards. I shot drive-in movie premieres, drive-in concerts, drive-in charity galas.