Los Angeles’ Hollywood is an odd place. Not many other places on Earth let you see wildly wealthy people and homeless people on the same street, along with unkempt free-spirited folks, well-groomed hip young people, street performers, and a million tourists taking pictures of it all.
In 1979, 17-year-old Matt Sweeney left his home and headed to Hollywood with dreams of making it big as a filmmaker. It didn’t happen. Film production jobs never quite materialized, and Sweeney made ends meet by working in local photography shops. He spent his free time and weekends riding the bus and wandering the streets of West Hollywood with his Nikon F2, honing his visual instincts by shooting street photos on cinematic Kodachrome slide film.
After four years chasing the dream, Sweeney decided to move on. He sold his equipment, but held on to the images he shot. They form a gritty and colorful record of life on the outskirts of the red carpet, of people who, like Sweeney, didn’t quite “make it.”
Check out Sweeney’s photos of Hollywood below.
1. Yellow car and pantsuit on Hollywood Blvd.
2. Morning at the Hollywood and Vine payphone that got lots of use over the years.
3. Woman waits for bus in Hollywoodland on Beachwood.
4. Hollywood and Vine, bus stop waiting.
5. Hollywood and Vine. When asked to shoot she said, ‘Honey, we are all vain.’
6. RTD bus comes from Hollywoodland and turns onto Hollywood Blvd.
7. Bald man reads newsstand sex rag while woman in blue pants walks by just off Hollywood Blvd.
8. One of the many older folks waiting for the right RTD bus on Hollywood Blvd.
9. Riding the bus out of Hollywood into LA as the sun sets.
10. Hollywood Blvd shoe store window after sunrise.
11. The Den Mother and the Act stroll Hollywood Blvd while a man waits up the street for them.
12. Gentleman with glasses and coat waits for bus on Hollywood Blvd.
13. A long time acquaintance with many names enjoys the attention on Hollywood Blvd morning.
14. Smoking at the bus stop between Mann’s and Highland.
15. Waiting to cross Hollywood Blvd.
16. General Hershey Bar does anti-war street theater in front of Mann’s.
17. Tourist picture at Mann’s.
18. Cowboy statue actor in front of Mann’s gets a second look.
19. Woman in red in front of J.J. Newberry Co. and Frederick’s of Hollywood.
20. Woman pets a duck at photo booth in front of J.J. Newberry Co. She was in Annie Hall’s Heaven.
21. A couple of older Hollywood residents take a stroll hand in hand.
22. Three sweet and tough chicas cruising Hollywood Boulevard.
23. A graffiti artist for Jesus just off Hollywood Blvd.
24. Waiting for the bus at the May Co at Wilshire and Fairfax.
25. Silverlake Fair from the laundromat.
26. The Capitol building and Goodyear blimp at Hollywood and Vine.
27. Sunset in late ‘70s over Hollywood in the LA smog, shot from Hollywood Hills.