The rumors are all true: Los Angeles can be an incredibly lonely place to live. Most residents fall into one of two categories: the natives who were raised here, and the explorers who arrive in search of mythical treasure.

When it comes to self-promotion, natives simply can’t compete. The explorers are like rats: hungrier and therefore more willing to take risks. They crawled here, fought tooth and claw, and made untold sacrifices along the way. For ten years, I worked as a freelance event photographer, watching Angeleno natives and their explorer counterparts desperately collide with one another for the sake of a photograph.

But no matter how believable the performance, the truth could always be found between acts or behind closed doors: desperation on the part of the explorers, and distance from the natives. Exposed occasionally on film, though never to each other.

—Robert Larson

If you’re interested in seeing more work on this and similar topics, we’d recommend the following features: Berlin 0500, a haunting, spectral look at Berlin in the moments when the day’s first light hits the city’s still pulsing streets; Pray LA, Joe Pugliese’s series of portraits featuring parishioners from a century-old Baptist church in their Sunday best; and Downtown Los Angeles: Skid Row, a street photography series that considers the razor-thin line between documentation and exploitation.