In the arts, they say a painting isn’t “finished” as much as it’s abandoned.
Meaning, when you are staring at a canvas for hours, days, often months and sometimes years, you come to a point where you are just moving paint around just for the sake of moving paint around. Most of the time, you have to just throw up your hands and say, “I’m done, I’m not working on this anymore.”
Which is how I finally got to publish South Of Zion, my book of Las Vegas photographs.
I moved to Las Vegas in April of 2009. However, my experiences of this town go back a lot further. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, into a gambling family. I’ve written before about how my mother and my grandmother were both regular visitors to Las Vegas, and how, growing up, family vacations meant coming to Vegas at least a couple of times a year.
In short, I have a history with this town. So, when I finally moved here to live, I wasn’t a stranger. But, I wasn’t a local either. I thought I knew about Vegas, but I didn’t. And I certainly wasn’t prepared for what I didn’t know.
Vegas knows how to kick you in the ass. I think, more than anything, that’s what I love about this town. Vegas will find your weakness. Money, lust, fame, power, pride, Vegas has seen all comers and it can reduce them all to tears. This city is more alive, more sentient, more aware of itself than any other city I’ve ever been to.
That’s something that I try to capture in my photographs.
I fail miserably at capturing that, obviously. But, in trying to create one work, other work gets created. And, after getting down and dirty serious about my photography since the first day I moved to Vegas, I knew that I wanted to put my photographs in a collection like this.
My initial thought for this book was, simply, a Non-Vegas Vegas book. If you’ve seen any books about Las Vegas, you know there is certain iconography that is normally included. In fact, it’s almost expected to be included. For most recent books, it’s the Bellagio fountains. I don’t think I’ve seen any book in the last ten years about Vegas that didn’t have at least one shot of those dammed fountains. So, rule #1, no Bellagio fountains.
Of course, I did have to included the Betty Willis designed Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas sign. I mean, I had to, right? But, I didn’t have to present it like it’s normally photographed, with the over saturated blue sky and green lawn.
This picture, for me, is the best description of what South Of Zion is. It’s everything familiar about Las Vegas, but slightly askew, and a bit menacing. Towering over you like it owns you, because it does, this is Vegas in stark light, with all the blemishes on show.
And power lines. Lots and lots of power lines.
More about that in the next post. I’m going to be writing a lot more about South Of Zion in the coming weeks, I have so much to say about the pictures, the process, and the plans for the future of this project.
But for now, please check out the book in its entirety at Blurb.com.