Tierney Gearon has spent a career pushing the boundaries of photography. Early on, her I am a Camera series for Saatchi was scrutinized by the public for its depiction of her children and personal life (as we know, truly brave art is often misunderstood in its time). Later, she created vivid collisions of modern life and the natural world by double exposing her film inside the camera, in her groundbreaking work Explosure. Gearon’s art has always treated the lens as a means of reaching deeper into herself, and the selection of photographs below are no different: vibrant reflections of life as a Californian, told through cars, trucks, vans, and, most importantly, people.

Where were these photos taken and what draws people to the road & beach lifestyle?

These images were shot along the coast in Malibu. Malibu is a very interesting, constantly changing life. One day you will see over 50 motorcycles all driving together, or dozens of bicycles driving up the canyon.

Since COVID there have been an incredible amount of interesting people living out of their cars; you see the same car switching locations along the coast.

Over the years of taking photos, how have you seen the landscape of photography evolve, especially in California?

There is always something interesting happening along the coast. The biggest change in Malibu over the past 20 years is the core of Malibu was mostly blue-collar: a lot of simple people looking for a quiet life in nature who love to surf. 

Now Malibu has become a crazy expensive place, most people you never really see.  There is very little community for the amount of people that actually come out to Malibu. Paradise Cove was a cheap little trailer park which now has become insanely expensive. There are little pockets of communities.

I have lived all over the world and sometimes I feel like I am living in a very isolated community.

Can you talk us through any of the subjects in the photos and what their story is (if you managed to speak to any of the subjects)?

To be honest a lot of the people I met were basically homeless characters living out of their cars. But this is something that has been evoked since COVID. However the younger people I met were just people looking to get a break from the working 9-5 world and wanted to have a sense of freedom and just be able to enjoy life.

There is a van culture of surfers that also exists but those show up where the waves are. They are the van culture surfers living for the wave following where the waves are…This culture you will find from San Diego all the way up the California coast.

What is freedom to you, and why do you think people live this lifestyle ‘on the road’? 

Mostly to be free of responsibility. To take a break from the burden of a 9 to 5 job and just live in the moment. When the waves are good you will see a different crowd, and a different culture.

What is Californian culture and how has it changed over the last 20 years?

Malibu mostly has just become more expensive. All I can say is I absolutely loving living in Malibu. 

So much happens on the PCH [Pacific Coast Highway]. There is always something going on. There are so many interesting characters and different events happening. There is no real community, probably because it is one long strip so you have to make an effort to create your own community.

The fires and COVID really brought people together.

From Issue 6: Movies and Motors. Order your copy here.