Let’s talk about the title.
For those who don’t know, Zion is a very beautiful national park located in Utah. Las Vegas is directly south of that, so it’s a geographical reference. The first contrast is that Zion is full of natural beauty, and there is very little of that in the cityscapes I show around Vegas. Also, the use of the word Zion, at least in this context, is a nod to the Mormon settlers and influence throughout the Vegas Valley.
More importantly, however, Zion is the Promised Land, the final destination of hope and promise. Being south of that is representative of not being in a place of hope and promise. South, as well, has a connotation of things going poorly. When it’s all going bad, nobody says, “It’s all gone North”. No, they say it’s all gone south. So, all of that is present in the title. For me, at least. I never expected anyone else to pick up on all that, but I’m confident that there would those who at least get some of it.
I tried not to overdo the religious imagery, however. There were two other shots which contained religious iconography which I pulled, for various reasons. You might be surprised by this, but Vegas is a very religious town. There are neighborhoods with a church on every corner. If I had to design my dream project, it would be a photo essay of the churches, and believers, of Las Vegas. For all the emphasis on sin, Vegas has a surprising amount of salvation. There is a real battle between dark and light here.
There were other themes that I really did want to develop. Like power lines.
I wanted power lines in every picture. I didn’t get there, but it’s close. You don’t notice it, but there are power lines everywhere in this city. I mean everywhere. Old, creaking wood structures built in the 1950s still stand, holding up the lines that carry the juice for all the spotlights and glitter that makes Vegas shine. For me, power lines are a very potent symbol.
So are Cadillacs. There are four in the book, that I remember, there should have been more. Every car should have been a Cadillac.
Daylight is another unifying theme. I’ve touched upon this before, but Las Vegas looks completely different in the daylight. It’s almost an entirely different city. That was another criteria for my Non-Vegas Vegas theme, was to show this city in an entirely different light. Literally. So many movies and books show Vegas only at night, all the bright blinking lights, this electric oasis in the dark desert. I wanted to show what it looked like at noon. And try to find something beautiful and interesting in that.
This isn’t a perfect project. I think there are several gaps that still bother me. The most glaring, for me at least, is that there is very little from North Las Vegas, or Henderson. I don’t think I have anything east of Eastern Avenue. I would have liked the geographic range of photos to have been larger. I really wanted a decent picture of Frenchman Mountain, but I just couldn’t get it. In the future, I need to shoot on the east side a lot more.
I could go on talking about the good points, and bad, but I think I’ve done enough exposition to for any reader to get a good foothold into this work. I know for me, South Of Zion rewards multiple viewings, and even for myself, I find different connections between pictures and sections that I didn’t even plan.
I think this is a different book than what is out there. Or what has been out there in the past.
What does the future hold? The big vision for this is to expand this theme, South Of Zion, into a full gallery show. I know many other Vegas photographers who work in the same themes, and have just as much passion for this city as I do. I would love to see this become a collaborative effort between many talented people trying to bring the harsh truths and strange beauty of this city to light. We’ll see.
But for now, all I know that this book is finally finished. And I couldn’t be more proud of it.