Fremont Street

I have a love hate relationship with Fremont Street, here in Las Vegas.

Often, I will say I hate Fremont.  What I mean is that, I hate what they’ve done to it.  I really dislike the canopy of the Fremont Street Experience, how it just obstructs all the classic casino signage.  And then there are those shows they put on that Jumbotron, I don’t think they’ve updated it in a decade.  I mean, honestly, it has such potential to be cool, but they just do zero with it.

And, lately, I hate the coming gentrification, Tony Hsieh and the boys coming in, flashing their wads of cash and closing down and tearing down all the old, seedy motels (RIP: Orbit Inn, etc.) to make it all bright and clean and safe for the hipper-than-thou crowd who are already dozens deep at Commonwealth every weekend.

Of course, that’s just really superficial hipster-hate, and it speaks volumes more about me than about Fremont.

So, there’s that.  But then, there is the Fremont Street that I like to photograph.  I love that Fremont.

I took that shot with my Canon PowerShot A1000, and it’s still one of my favorite shots ever.  December 26, 2009.

But, it wasn’t until my mom passed away in 2011 that I really started to go for it on Fremont.  I was just going through this phase, I had all this aggression about the unresolved issues that were being brought up.  I had a total “I Just Don’t Give A F***!” attitude, about a lot of things.  And I took my aggression out on random people.  I just pointed my camera in their faces like I had never done before.  I would never say that I became a “street photographer”.  But, I certainly took a giant step forward.

I’ve always had real trouble with taking pictures of total strangers.  Mostly due to that fact that I am a total pussy, and I didn’t want to get my ass kicked.  Or my gear snatched away and and stomped on or thrown against a wall.  But mostly the ass kicking.

I don’t know how Vivian Maier did it.  Or Bruce Gilden, Robert Doisneau, Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus (though she’s not usually included in the canon of “Street” photographers), David Hurn, Alex Webb, or any others. I just didn’t have it in me to just take pictures of total strangers.

And I still don’t. That IDGAF feeling soon went away, but I was thrilled and challenged about the pictures that I took during that time.  And, every time I go out now, I try to convince myself to step further and further away from my comfort zone, especially when it comes to photographing people.

That’s true of all art.  If you aren’t challenging yourself, you are doing it wrong.

I have learned some go-to tricks that have certainly helped my progress.  In these days of widespread paranoia, where people are actually encourage to snitch on someone who is just taking photos, it’s difficult to be a middle aged man, walking alone, taking pictures of strangers.  My #1 rule for Street Photography: A smile goes a long way.

Which is one of the reasons I was able to get these shots.  And many more.

The Mint 400 was this weekend, they closed off Fremont for the staging area for all the race teams.  It was loud, crowded, over the top. That’s the Fremont Street that I love.

And, I hardly even took any pictures of the trucks.  To be honest, I was more interested in the people.  I didn’t have the time to stay there and get totally immersed in the scene, which is a shame, because it was a happening scene.  But I got some.  Putting my courage and my camera up and tried to get the shot.  The one at the very top of this post is one.  Lot’s of tough characters here, but no ass kicking.  I guess it’s ok to point and shoot.

Sometimes, I’m told, it’s even OK to stare.

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