Behind the lens: Vegas baby!
This image was shot in Downtown Las Vegas. Most people know the more modern “Strip” which is full of pseudo glitzy themed mega casinos that are strangely ersatz versions of other places such as Ancient Rome, Venice, Paris and New York.
Downtown is more chaotic, yet down to earth – a place where more locals seem to hang out.
This image is different to my usual candid street style in that it is posed. I attempted to get a flattering candid photo of this gentleman on Freemont Street at night for 10-15 minutes to no avail.
So I just asked if I could take his portrait. The title, Still High, is from the nonsensical sign the guy in the green shirt on the left – who tried to photobomb me – is holding.
The image is from a body of work shot over several years consisting of more than 100 main images called Lost Vegas. It culminated in two solo exhibitions, a photobook, one image winning Head On Landscape Prize (2013) and another being a finalist image in the Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Photography Prize (2017).
I chose Las Vegas as a long-form documentary project as it’s probably one of the strangest places on earth and can be seen as a microcosm of the USA.
Beneath the neon lit surface, it is also a very sad, kind of dangerous, impoverished place, especially North Las Vegas. I broke down all the images into categories such as gambling addiction, gun culture, war against poverty, voter suppression, love and marriage (+ divorce), landscapes – natural and man-made – and general street photography.
A few hours after taking this photo, a man was shot dead at point blank range nearby. I followed the case online and it involved a love triangle with two male flatmates fighting over a girl. The shooter is now in jail for a long time. I guess no-one got the girl in the end. No-one wins – just another sad, “unlucky” Vegas story.
I think the key ingredients to street photography is a keen eye for characters and “street sets”; patience; quick conception of possibilities; understanding available lighting qualities; shooting fast; and framing from the hip while remaining anonymous.
I love the retro look of the Fuji X100 series and its fast f2 35mm lens. It’s also a camera which doesn’t scream “press” or “serious camera” (like my Canon 5D does). People don’t feel threatened by it or think you are working for the CIA or something.
About the author: Tim Levy is an award winning Sydney based freelance photographer, writer and teacher who has covered a multitude of photographic disciplines. His professional work has seen him cover over 25 years of music gigs, portraits, football (the real one) tournaments, dog calendars, travel, shoe photography, Film and Television and everything else in between. His personal work centres around Street Photography with which he has put on numerous solo and group exhibitions.