Q&A: Marissa Roth — Hollywood / Los Angeles


Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? I always live by this philosophy, ‘Life is in session’. What will baffle future generations about our day and age? Why so many people in powerful positions didn’t believe climate scientists when they had a chance to prevent, or at least mitigate, global warming. Are you aware of any conspiracies? No. What is it that interests you about photography? Everything! What is the worst thing about city life? Loneliness. What part of the planet would you like to explore? Antarctica, the South Pacific and go back to the Indian Ocean. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural? I have no idea. If you had to align yourself with a leader in history, who would it be? Mahatma Gandhi. Pick a field of science to be an expert within. Geology. What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? I’ve stopped tormenting myself over images I missed with a camera, and am content with retaining them only in my mind’s eye. Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side. Plant a garden. Describe the most important photo you’ve seen. Nick Ut’s “Napalm Girl”. How often do you take other people’s advice? Often. Describe a personal hell. Being stuck in rush hour traffic on the 405 Freeway in Southern California. Which living person do you most admire? The Dalai Lama. On what occasion do you lie? I try never to lie. What was the last crime you witnessed? A carjacking in LA. What is the best way to educate yourself? Keep an open mind and open heart, and never lose your sense of wonder. What is the next book you want to read? War and Peace. Ultimate camera? The one I’m using. Most used camera? My Nikon FE2’s. What object do you want? Equanimity. What object do you need? Peace of mind. How would you explain the internet to someone from the 1950’s? Invaluable positive tool for global communication and information, that’s also a time thief, and tragically a conduit for spreading hate and inspiring violence. Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? No, I could always be stronger. Describe a cheap thrill. Drinking a glass of expensive champagne. Pick an historic moment from the last hundred years to bring a camera to. The end of the Vietnam – American War, April 30, 1975. Are impulses more important than consequences? Yes and no. It all depends on one’s mindfulness and self-discipline, and on the degree of the impulse and depth of the consequence. Which talent would you most like to have? To be able to sing. What is your plan for the next 24 hours? Fly to Los Angeles from London, then sleep.


Working as a photojournalist in Los Angeles for decades, Marissa Roth recognized that she had rare access and myriad opportunities beyond the scope of her journalistic assignments to photographically record the nuances, ironies, metaphors and stark contrasts of this sprawling metropolis. She would often linger after a photo assignment was completed in order to photograph with her own particular vision, and self-assigned photographic forays in order to document this cities’ visual contradictions. This portfolio reflects her documentary-style approach to the “other side” of glamour in Hollywood, and juxtaposes it with the stark, edgier inner city reality.


Born and raised in Los Angeles, Marissa Roth is an internationally published freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer. Her assignments for prestigious publications including The New York Times, have taken her around the world. Roth was part of The Los Angeles Times photography staff that won a Pulitzer Prize for Best Spot News, for its coverage of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions and a number of images are in museum, corporate and private collections. One Person Crying: Women and War, Roth’s 31-year personal photo essay that addresses the immediate and lingering impact of war on women in different countries and cultures around the world, is currently an international travelling exhibition, with a forthcoming book. Infinite Light: A Photographic Meditation on Tibet is also a current project, and a traveling exhibition. The book, with a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was released in April 2014. The Crossing, a poetic photographic study of the north Atlantic Ocean, taken with color transparency film, is a current project.

A commissioned portrait project by The Museum of Tolerance/ Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, to photograph the Holocaust survivors who volunteer there, Witness to Truth, is on permanent exhibition at the museum. She recently completed curating an exhibition of photographs taken by Vietnam Veteran during the war, entitled, My War: Wartime Photographs by Vietnam Veterans, which debuted at The Highground Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park in Neillsville, WI, in August 2016. Roth is currently curating a retrospective exhibition about Frank Hurley, the esteemed Australian photographer whose legacy is anchored by his iconic photographs of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Endurance expedition to Antarctica. The exhibition will debut in 2020.

Roth has 3 additional books to her credit, Burning Heart: A Portrait of The Philippines, Real City: Downtown Los Angeles Inside/Out, and Come the Morning, a children’s book about homelessness.

Roth is a Fellow at the Royal Geographical Society, and a Leica Ambassador.

To see more of Marissa Roth’s work visit — marissarothphotography.com


Images —

1. Earthquake Freeway Collapse, Los Angeles 1994

2. Natalie Wood Gets a Posthumous Star, Hollywood Boulevard 1986

3. Bette Davis, Los Angeles 1982

4. Gucci Billboard by Chateau Marmont, West Hollywood 2000

5. Rosamund Pike, South Pasadena 2006

6. Broken Corrugated Wall, Downtown Los Angeles 2000

7. Girl in a Fuzzy Coat, Los Angeles 1996

8. Homeless Sweater, Downtown Los Angeles 2000

9. Spike Lee, Independent Spirit Awards, Santa Monica 1998

10. Groundbreaking Party for The Grove, Los Angeles 1998

11. O.J. Simpson Trial, Los Angeles 1995

12. Celebrity Cutouts, Santa Monica Pier 1986

13. Jim Carrey, Beverly Hills 1999

14. Broken Street, Los Angeles 1994

15. Gang Girl, Los Angeles 2007

16. Political Demonstration, Downtown Los Angeles 2000

17. Marlboro Man on Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood 2000

18. Sofia Coppola & Her Niece, at a Party, West Hollywood 1998