Las Vegas: Part 1

Photographer Matt Colombo

Las Vegas Belongs to Matt Colombo / 1

Matt Colombo’s lens conveys images from a city experiencing a plenitude of change. In the last ten years, Las Vegas was both one of America’s fastest growing metropolitan areas and one of the American cities most economically impacted by the collapse of the housing market. The result of such a stark change of financial pace, coupled with the city’s intrinsic affiliation with Lady Luck, is a set of dichotomies all existing together inside the biggest little city on earth. That may be Reno’s motto, but it’s applicable in Vegas too. The rich and the poor, tourist and homeless, newlyweds and prostitutes, the lucky and the unlucky – there’s even a divide between New Vegas and Old Vegas.

Matt Colombo captures all of it.

In New Vegas, or the section of Las Vegas Blvd that binge drinking college students and international high rollers are most familiar with, Matt has “found all of the ‘bright decadence’ [he] was looking for.” Here live bright lights and beautiful women, the look of hope on gamblers’ faces in the early evening and the look of disbelief that usually follows a few hours later, the expensive booze and expensive drugs and expensive lifestyles and the expensive people that lead them. It’s not uncommon to see showgirls on the street in their performance costumes, wearing their show-stopping smiles and their traffic-stopping figures barely covered. Further down the block you can rent a Lamborghini for the night or stay in a hotel room with a shower the size of my Brooklyn apartment. Opulence is common here, but it becomes less prevalent as you head north on the strip.

Starting around five miles north of the city’s center, visitors and locals alike can find themselves in the part of Las Vegas that Matt Colombo prefers to shoot. North Vegas is seedy, old, dirty, run down and sad. Naturally, Matt “fell in love with it from the very first moment he set eyes on it.” When asked why, Matt explains, “I love all of the sad aesthetics…the old motels, rooms, broken signboards and light bulbs, prostitutes, strippers, artists and old gamblers.”

Colombo’s preference for the old part of town is apparent, at least in these first 15 photos that comprise the first installment of what will be an ongoing series. He will continue to explore one of America’s most intriguing cities as he captures the varying essence of what Las Vegas means to so many different people. He will show that Las Vegas is an escape to some, from their lives or jobs or families. He will show that Las Vegas is home to others, either by choice or by misfortune. He will show that Las Vegas is a vice for most, as it provides an outlet for urges that go mostly unfulfilled elsewhere. And when it’s over, most importantly, it will be obvious to us all that Las Vegas belongs to Matt Colombo.

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