Las Vegas DMU Style

Thomas Hawk
Photo by Doug Brenizer.

I spent a great weekend with my wife in Las Vegas this past weekend mostly shooting and hanging out with friends from the DMU group on Flickr. That photo of me shooting above above was taken by Surf Daddy, Doug Brenizer, at Margaritaville on the strip.

It’s always interesting to meet people from Flickr online for the first time. Participants in this weekend meetup included names as diverse as Dshalock the Libertarian Emperor of DMU, Chiapetta Minister of Ravishing, jakerome, TrEjAcK., sbaracchina, and of course Surf Daddy and his posse (including the Assistant City Attorney of Las Vegas and a few others). Surf Daddy, by the way, is the polar opposite of his brother Ryan Brenizer, who is also very active on Flickr and writes a photography blog for

Note that of the three photos above, the one of the pretty girl in the middle has triple the view count on Flickr as the other two thugs. Go figure. She is every bit as sweet as she is beautiful in real life by the way — and also taken.

I spent most of the time shooting Vegas in addition to hanging out with the DMU crowd. All in, from Friday to Sunday, I fired 3,407 frames. I’ll probably end up processing 300-400 of these and then filter them into my photostreams over time.

I stayed at the Venetian on this trip and would highly recommend that hotel. You pay slightly more than some of the other hotels on the strip, but the suites are outstanding and the internet service there was perfect. They also have a great club level lounge.

Some of my favorite places to shoot from this trip: Fremont Street (this is where some of the older vintage neon signs in Vegas live, including some signs that have been restored by the neon museum in Vegas), the West Wing Bar at the MGM Grand (great red glass for silhouette shooting), the Coach store at the Wynn (great abstract glass wall), the mannequins in Ceaser’s Forum shopping mall (Escada had the best mannequins there), and the amazing light fixtures in almost every hotel/casino in Vegas. Harrahs had some interesting ones especially that I’ll make some abstract photos out of later.

Chief Hotel Court
Vintage restored neon on Fremont Street

There is an interesting underbelly to Vegas that would be worth exploring photographically at a later date. There is a dark side yet to the most known Las Vegas slogan “what happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas.” I’m sure other photographers have already done some of this work. You’d need a car and need to drive around outside of the tourist centered areas.

The blight, crime, prostitution, drug, gambling, alcohol addiction, etc. are fierce and a stark juxtaposition to what you find in the more aesthetically beautiful side of Vegas. A tiny bit of it creeps into the Vegas experience here and there. Just enough to know that if you dug deeper you’d find more. Mexicans handing out cards for “strippers” on the strip, drunk homeless teenage kids sleeping in doorways just off the strip, tiny glimpses here and there of what runs much deeper, I’m sure, outside of the beautiful places and the beautiful people.

I didn’t gamble even one nickle in Vegas myself, I’ve always been good at math that way. For me though, even without the gambling, Vegas is a place that I will come back to many times over the course of the rest of my life. If for no other reason than to continue to document the place on the planet that seems to entirely reinvent itself every 20 years or so. The multi-million dollar design work that seems to go into each new restaurant and club are some of the most aesthetically interesting places to make abstract photographs in the world. Lights, color, shapes, lines, patterns, all are presented in vivid ways — they have to be in order to pull you out of the casino in order to eat, even if for only 5 minutes before they steal the rest of your money and sometimes part your soul away from you.

One of the other nice things in Vegas is that as a photographer you are largely left alone. Because everyone there is deemed a tourist, having a camera walking around a casino or shopping mall is accepted in ways that you’d find yourself run off by security guards in other cities around the country. Other than a brief questioning incident while I was shooting macro toy shots in FAO Schwartz all of Las Vegas was pretty much at my disposal and hassle free.

I’ve shot Vegas a few times in the past as well. You can check out my older Vegas shots (and my new ones as I filter them in ) in my Viva Las Vegas set. And definitely looking forward to DMU Las Vegas 2009 next year.

Update: Dshalock’s Vegas photo set here. Trejack’s photoset here. Surf Daddy’s photoset here. sbracchina’s set here.

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  1. Heh, glad you and Doug had a good time. Photography 2.0 is a small world.

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