In 2006 I went to Las Vegas for the first time.
I was on a road trip heading into Nevada from Arizona and the sun was starting to set as we were driving into the city. I was SO excited.
Cruising the Strip with the neon lights and glittering marquees. It was going to be awesome.
We drove in through downtown and passed a little bit of Fremont Street and I perked up a bit. I got a glimpse of the Golden Gate and the 4 Queens.
Vegas, baby!!! That was it! We just passed it!
But we kept driving…
Then we got to the Strip.
Huge Eiffel Tower? Giant TV screens? The Statue of Liberty? What??
It was jarring after being on the road for so long. TVs flashing promotions for shows, lights blinking…even McDonalds was all done up in neon. We drove around looking for an inexpensive hotel off of the Strip and found a decent Hampton Inn and called it a night.
THE NEXT DAY
The next day we met up with friends who were flying in to spend one day with us in Vegas then drive with us to the next stop on our road trip, Disneyland.
My plans for Vegas: take a million and one photos and eat at a buffet.
Their plans for Vegas: go to clubs and hang out.
So, I did what I could to try to merge my desire to work (which is fun for me) and their desire to have fun (which required dressing up, which I did not want to do).
During the day we went to the Neon Boneyard, an absolutely amazing scrapyard of vintage Vegas signs that have been recovered by The Neon Museum for preservation and possible renovation. I planned this part of the trip MONTHS in advance and paid to reserve time to take photographs. It was pricey but TOTALLY worth it. It was so exciting I completely forgot that I was wearing rolled up jeans in 103 degree heat. (It was August.) I took over 300 photos in an hour and a half.
We went back to the hotel and I downloaded my pics. The plan was to go to the Ghostbar, a bar near the top of the Palms hotel that has a fantastic view overlooking the Strip, then I would run around like a chicken with my head cut off photographing everything I could. (Okay, that part wasn’t actually the plan. That was the result.)
I got my amazing shots overlooking the Strip at the Ghostbar and then we headed to the Strip. A lot of traveling was on foot, a fair amount by car. The person I was with was not exactly keen on being chauffeur or stopping and waiting for me to get out and get the shots that I wanted. So I got what I could as quickly as I could.
I literally ran down Fremont Street at 3am so I could get a shot of the 4 Queens, Glitter Gulch and the famous smoking cowboy and make it down to the other end of the street by the time he had circled the block.
My shot of the Sahara that you see in my Viva Las Vegas collage?
Photographed from a gas station with my long lens. It was either that or try to photograph it from a moving car, which is how I got the shot of the Stardust and the Riviera.
At 6am, after photographing the Welcome to Las Vegas sign and the side of the MGM Grand (which is where we were staying), we finally called it a night.
It was rushed and I was nervous that some of my pics weren’t going to be good enough to use in a collage. I couldn’t sleep much and woke up to download my pics.
Only to find….
The pics from the Ghostbar?
The pics from about half of the Strip?
The Fremont Street pics? They were still there.
It was like, “here’s some of the photos you took, and the rest, well, they just don’t exist.” Corrupted. I don’t know if it was a bad memory card or the camera, but they were gone.
“THIS IS THE REASON I CAME HERE!!!”
After sobbing and shouting for a good 30 minutes while my friends tried to tell me they’re just pictures, we left and headed towards California. To get me to calm down, we made the plan to circle back through Vegas at the end of our road trip so I could re-take the photos I lost.
I never got to photograph the wedding chapels from anywhere but the back seat of our car with a tiny point and shoot or go back to the Ghostbar to get that amazing view of the Strip from above. I did get to eat at a buffet, though.
2 of the hotels in my Viva Las Vegas collage, the Frontier and the Stardust, have seen the wrecking ball. A third, the Sahara, is set to be demolished in May. I’d like to go back to get a decent photo of it (not from a gas station) and also to get another shot at Vegas (pun intended) the right way. Not running, not taking photos from a moving car, but taking the time to do it well.
Will another collage come out of this?
Do I need your help?
But I’m not comfortable receiving without giving back.
The purpose of my collage work is to preserve through photography our memories and the places where those memories reside. I want to help protect those places, or at the very least pieces of them, for future generations.
I will be giving 5% of your donation to The Neon Museum so they can continue to do amazing work caring for Vegas’s historic signage so it can be seen and appreciated long after it’s been taken down.
And there’s more!
I will be posting a gallery of photos after I return. To thank you for your donation, you will get a print of a photo of your choosing. I’m not exactly sure what size the prints will be yet since I’m plotting a little bit of a surprise (yay surprises!), but I guarantee something cool that you’ll want to frame. Or at the very least put on your fridge.
BUT I’M NOT DONE!
Everyone who donates will be entered in a drawing to receive a matted 8 x 10 print of the new Vegas collage that will be created after this trip.
And finally, like my trip to San Francisco, I will also be keeping you updated with blog posts as well as taking some video along the way.
You’re helping an awesome artist document our ever-changing landscape and make art from it.
You’re helping an awesome organization preserve pieces of Las Vegas history.
You get awesome stuff when it’s all said and done.
You can donate any amount. Just click the ChipIn button!
(the widget is Flash, unfortunately, so if you’re on an iPhone or iPad & would like to contribute, simply click here.)