While ISPA has been fighting to keep unwanted mattresses off of street corners, Los Angeles-based portrait and fashion photographer Chris Fitzgerald has seen success chronicling the plight of those same curbside mattresses on L.A.’s streets in a series of haunting photographs.
Fitzgerald says he began photographing mattresses a couple of years ago after seeing an abundance of old, used mattresses lining the curbs.
“On our dog-walking route alone, I must have seen eight over a month-long period,” says Fitzgerald.
The artist became fascinated with the idea of spending so much intimate time with a thing, and then discarding it so casually, he says.
“Not to anthropomorphize too much, but mattresses know so much about us,” says Fitzgerald. “They know our dirty little secrets. They seemed to leave so many unanswered questions: Was there a break up? A death? A new mattress?”
Fitzgerald says that much of his work deals with themes that combine intimacy, trust, and a certain degree of voyeurism, and that while he rarely works with still life or landscapes, The Mattress Series coincides with themes that he enjoys exploring.
“These photos are portraits in many ways, glamorizing and memorializing in the same breath,” says Fitzgerald.
The Mattress Series has been shown in Santa Monica, Calif.; Hollywood, Calif. and Memphis, Tenn. The series has been quite popular, says Fitzgerald — more so than he ever imagined — and he says the photos often elicit a strong response from people.
“There were a few months there that friends would text me photos of mattresses around the city and an address so I could go photograph it later,” he says.
Since California enacted a used mattress recycling law last year, Fitzgerald’s subject matter for the series should be diminishing, and hopefully will soon simply be a historical record of life before SB 254.