“Not the one we are intended to see but the one we glimpse from the corner of our eye”
For those that can, cast your mind back to the film days when at long last we picked up that paper envelope and hastily flipped through the prints to see what our efforts from days ago would now reveal. Great looking shots gave us that lovely little rush of happy dopamine, and the blurry or poorly composed shots were a gut-punch of disappointment. It’s a mistake I see in retrospect that I didn’t respect my errors more than I did at the time. It was thanks to the new perspective that digital post-processing gave me that I was finally able to appreciate an entire world of potential lurking in the places my ego dared not let me venture.
When I first moved to Las Vegas I was on the run from a crippling barrage of depression and lament as I ruminated endlessly over my decision to quit my career of 18 years, my divorce and other puzzles of the mind that I couldn’t resolve. Here I was in this iconic wonderland of sensory joy feeling so very unembraced by any of it, and because of this inability to see the place as it was intended by its designers, I felt very out of place. One evening I managed to force myself out of hiding to pick up my camera from its lonely bag. I knew fully that this is one of the most heavily photographed and iconic cities on the planet, and while I still had no idea of how to break through this creative barrier, I knew that simply taking ‘nice’ shots of the same signs and scenes wasn’t going to get me anywhere.
I was many miles from the strip, way in the Northeast edges on a hill with a sweeping view. I set up with a telephoto lens and tripod trying to see deeper than the typical shots a reasonable photographer would take. I waited for the sunset to be just right, stitching together panoramas, etc but I just didn’t feel it. As the light faded and my shutter speeds dropped into the multiple seconds I lamented bumping my tripod during an exposure, then my morbid fascination seeing the results through the little LCD screen. The distorted interpretation immediately appealed to me. I began to experiment by tapping the lens with various small objects such as my key fob as I took several extremely experimental shots.
That night the switch happened. Mistakes gave way to revelation and my evolution had begun again.
In the years since I’ve been refining my style incorporating various interactive techniques as they occur to me. This style of shooting is not efficient as I will often shoot over a hundred images keeping 1 or perhaps none, but I am driven to press on.
This is the parallel Las Vegas hiding in plain sight. Not the one we are intended to see but the one we glimpse from the corner of our eye, the one we see in the deepest contrast between glaring artificial lights and inky darkness, this land of distorted reality further distorted by my incessant zooming, panning, and tilting. This elusive glitch in the Vegas Matrix frozen in time for us to study and in turn challenge our perceptions.
Technically speaking, what I’m doing is a form of “kinetic light painting” wherein artistic effects are captured in long exposures as lights are typically moved around in the scene. In my case though I am the one moving. To modify a quote from The Matrix: it is not the city lights that move, it is only myself. I am effectively turning the entire night sky into a giant etch-a-sketch.
The meaning of the word perfection is now lost on me and I couldn’t even point you toward it. I’m not running anymore, instead, my process is ever inward to the challenging introspective darkness as I recklessly explore these precious anomalies.