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  • August 21, 2014

Musings: Antonio Gomez Takes a Walk on Las Vegas’s Surreal Side

Author
Anna Lukacs
Contributions
Elizabeth Krist

The Eiffel Tower, ancient Roman statues, an Egyptian pyramid against a background of palm trees. At first glance, you’d think that photographer Antonio Gomez traveled around the world to create this work. Yet, if you look closer it becomes clear that we’re not looking at iconic landmarks in Paris, Rome, or Cairo—strangely enough, they all exist on a single street: Las Vegas Boulevard.

Picture of classical-themed statues in Las Vegas
Battle at Sea. Treasure Island, 2014

Gomez began the Las Vegas Boulevard project in 2011 with the aim of documenting how dramatically the city of Las Vegas changes from one end to the other. However, Gomez quickly realized that people weren’t responding to the work, which pushed him to adopt a new approach. Using a Holga camera, he began shooting a scene along the boulevard and then shooting a second, and sometimes even third, overlapping scene in camera. This method evolved into shooting individual frames digitally and combining them afterwards, which he says made it easier to put ideas together.

Picture of faux Egyptian architecture outside the Las Vegas Luxor Hotel
The Eye in the Desert. Luxor Hotel, 2010
Picture of New York, New York Casino in Las Vegas
Sharks in New York. Outside of New York, New York Casino, 2009

When choosing which images to pair, Gomez considers three approaches. Along the lines of contrast, Gomez juxtaposes scenes that highlight the contradictory nature of Las Vegas, often building on the theme of Vegas as an adult playground. The second category is comprised of scenes that are physically or psychologically related, such as a similar object in a different context.

Picture of poster next to a picture of a high-heeled shoe in Las Vegas
Vegas Shoe. North end of Las Vegas, 2012

His last approach involves overlapping scenes to construct surreal landscapes that seem to extend beyond the frame.

Gomez explains that in addition to forming part of the surreal landscape, the photographs with blurred or repeated shapes mimic the bleary-eyed vision of an intoxicated person, not an uncommon point of view in Vegas.

Picture of three frames of classical-themed statues in Las Vegas
Roman Gathering. Parking lot of Caesars Hotel, 2009
Picture of a window reflection in Las Vegas
Everything Vegas. North end of Las Vegas, 2011

As Gomez also says, “Las Vegas is a place where you can travel to different countries just by crossing the street. You can be in New York on one side of the street and be in a European castle on the other. In creating these simulacra [or representations], Las Vegas became a wonderful one-of-a-kind city found nowhere else in the world.”

Picture of a bird sculpture next to a picture of a skyscraper in the CityCenter area of Las Vegas
Bird at CityCenter. CityCenter area, 2013

The fact that Las Vegas has become a unique city through the process of imitation is ironic, but has a darker side. Gomez says, “After a while we begin to notice that things are not as they seem. We notice that the beautiful fountains and statues are not made out of marble but made out of stucco, concrete, or foam.” These images explore the city as illusion, and are themselves illusions. “Las Vegas is a place where reality is distorted with its many simulations of places, people, and experiences. It is this that I try to capture within my images.”

Picture of the south end of Las Vegas
Welcome to Fabulous Vegas. South end, 2013

View more of Antonio Gomez’s work on his website.

There are 7 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. pappuyadav
    November 14, 2014

    glob

  2. Katy Did
    October 19, 2014

    Great photos. Vegas has something for everybody. It’s actually a great city. Like any other city, it has it’s problems, but compared to most – it actually runs smoothly and better than most because it is set up for it. Vegas has more to offer on levels to everyone as a tourist including families with kids. Its a fun place.

  3. Chiedza Jenje
    September 7, 2014

    I do not have much knowledge of Las Vegas but I some how agree that it is a simulated reality designed to draw your attention and emotions to it.However it is sad that behind all this beauty lies darkness.

  4. eddie-A
    September 3, 2014

    Nice(;

  5. Sean
    August 24, 2014

    I have to note that the comment by Debasree below is absurd: “It is as if a niche of the world has been carved where there is nothing but joy. You leave behind your whole life of worries to enter this sanctum and become a different person altogether when within.”

    That is about the least accurate description of Vegas I have ever heard. IN FACT, Las Vegas is a surreal shopping mall (Antonio’s photos capture this) filled with the misery and depressingly empty experiences that accompany shopping, drinking and gambling. I have never been to a more joyless, grotesque dystopia of the American dream.

    But Debrasee has admitted never even being there, so wouldn’t know this. Which begs the question: if you have never been to Las Vegas in the first place, why would you provide a lengthy comment about it?

  6. Cate Frazier-Neely
    August 23, 2014

    Never thought I’d be interested in anything about Las Vegas. Antonio’s photo view and Anna’s story have given me a different perspective.

  7. DEBASREE BANERJEE
    August 21, 2014

    Las Vegas is one place that exhilarates, excites, tantalizes and amuses at the same time. I have never been there, though I have been to other places which do give you these experiences subtly, but what is special about Vegas (as much as I have gathered and felt from others’ anecdotes, travelogues and photographs) is that here you seem to step into a world of extravagance. Everything is simply too much. It is as if a niche of the world has been carved where there is nothing but joy. You leave behind your whole life of worries to enter this sanctum and become a different person altogether when within.

    On the other hand, when you think that so much electricity, money, energy and interest is wasted daily towards maintaining this illusion, you wonder whether anybody at all deserves such extravaganza, despite so much deprivation in the world. I guess, this is where you are jolted out of your reverie.

    Nevertheless, Antonio’s photographs do successfully transmit your psyche to this place of fun and frivolity, and induce into you the quaint beauty of this unbelievable place.

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