Pete Bartlett’s portraits reveal the stories of aspiring actors living in LA
“What makes it worth waiting for?” This was the question editorial photographer Pete Bartlett was most curious to solve, after photographing actors at various stages of their careers for more than a decade. “It is such a precarious livelihood, but people are willing to stick with it for years,” he continues. “Jobbing actors don’t actually do a lot of acting, a lot of it is survival jobs in between.”
The British photographer had always wanted to shoot under the “legendary light” of LA, and it was the perfect place to find aspiring stars. Bartlett reached out to acting studios and contacts in the city, but, in the end, he decided to use backstage.com – a casting site for actors – and received 150 replies.
Over 10 days, Bartlett made portraits of 15 actors, but he is still unsure of whether he got the answer to his question – “What makes it worth waiting for?”. Many said it was the potential to escape ; the opportunity to explore characters that they would not in real life. But “I’m not sure that you fully understand it unless you do it yourself,” he says.
The resulting series, Waiting, provides an insight into their struggle, inviting us to discover the stories of persistence and hope of people who hold out for their big break.
DANIKA MAIA: ACTOR AND CAM GIRL
“Day jobs are for suckers, and I used to be one. Sitting around an office, sending out passive aggressive emails and hating the work I was doing. So I quit. I’m now a Cam Girl and couldn’t be happier. I still have time to go to auditions whenever I like.”
KATHLEEN TANSEY RIGGS: ACTOR AND DELIVERY DRIVER
“In 1975, I graduated from college with a theatre arts degree, no job, no prospects and no plan. I thought that someone would hire me to be the next big star. It was a rude awakening to discover that no one knew, or cared about, who I was. For 35 years I was a small business owner, but Donald Trump ruined it so I returned to my acting roots. Until I become a star, I’m enjoying the journey, doing some food deliveries, auditioning, and honing my craft.”
AMBITIOUS ANGELO: ACTOR, MODEL, AND DELIVERY DRIVER
“At 19 years old I joined the US Marines, and got married to my high school sweetheart. My first deployment was to Iraq, and things got rocky in the marriage. She cheated on me while I was away. This ended up in three failed suicide attempts and an administrative discharge from the military. After losing my marriage and my career, I ended up homeless and hitting rock bottom.
Seven months ago, I picked myself up and I got a one-way ticket from Boston to LA. I’ve met some incredible people here, one generous person donated this car to me, which has become my home while I fight every day to get one step closer to my dreams.”
ANNA CHRISTENSEN: ACTOR, MODEL, AND SHOP ASSISTANT
“I’m a 25-year-old Scandinavian actor living in LA. I moved here in the spring of 2018. It can feel like a never-ending slog when you’re worried about making rent, and trying to balance your minimum wage job with being available for auditions and unpaid shoots. But when you do book a shoot, and you get to feel just how much the Hollywood magic permeates the air here, it’s all worth it.”
SHASTA BELL: ACTOR/COMMS DIRECTOR
“I came to LA with my daughter, my duffle bag and my dream, which I put off while I raised my family. Once my kids were grown I was lost for a bit. Then I realised ‘now is my time, now is the time for me to follow my dream’. So I’ve jumped in and I’m making my way.”