This book is the result of seven years spent in Las Vegas, Nevada, working in the casinos and malls, for interior designers and colleges. In one of the most photographed and identifiable places in the world, it is easy to make recognizable photographs and difficult to see past Vegas' image culture. In a city obsessed with image and an ideal of glamour and costuming to protect its seams, I found a variety of people to participate in a project akin to performance art. We dressed up, decorated sets and played like the tourists do. Without social constraints, our combined imagined world became one of simple, sometimes silly transgression poking a bit of fun at a city which takes its image very seriously and prefers to manage it carefully.
Prostitutes and students, bar customers and casino bosses all became participants in the effort to make new photographs. I chose employment based on gaining access to those things left unseen by travelers. I visited the model homes that so rapidly grew at every edge of the city prior to the market collapse. There was a constant sense of upping the ante, taking the things I knew about photographs and photographing and making everything a spectacle, from the quiet moments to the gregarious.
I became a local, and in so doing realized why many don't last long. A sex worker told me what she missed was the ability to blush. Somehow we all became voyeurs of feeling, seemingly because we lost the ability to do it for ourselves. We take some solace in vicarious experience. We take a shine to anything that smacks of sincerity. We got used to the lights, the sounds and the constant assault to our senses, but in losing this, we lost something more important.
I began ceremonially acknowledging loss, the landscape changing around me constantly. I began costuming myself to visit casinos as a part of the scenery the days something was about to disappear. Then I flipped off the thing to be taken and journeyed home.
The Little Chapel of Esoteric Cosmetolog Published July 15, 2010