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

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Spiritual Venetian. Venetian Hotel, 2007

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.

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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.

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The Eye in the Desert. Luxor Hotel, 2010
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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.

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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.

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Roman Gathering. Parking lot of Caesars Hotel, 2009
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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.”

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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.”

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Welcome to Fabulous Vegas. South end, 2013

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

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