Gotham City in Las Vegas
Before I was born my father owned a machine shop in Las Vegas in the late 60’s. Located at Charleston and Main St. it was a heavy industrial area reserved primarily for metal fabrication companies, auto parts stores, and warehouses, Whoever would have thought that 45 years later this would be come the Arts District of Las Vegas? I can assure you, my father never saw it coming.
Today, the area is now brimming with cool restaurants, art galleries, hipster hangout bars, small theaters, and is a central hub for the growing trend of mobile food trucks serving everything from Hawaiian hamburgers to “Ballwiches” (yep, that’s not a joke). A little over a year ago, a friend of mine told me of this awesome new condo he was renting in the Soho Towers…a newer condo tower built right on Las Vegas Blvd. (The Strip) and Charleston Blvd…right in the heart of the Arts District. His 14th floor view of the Las Vegas valley is nothing short of spectacular but even more cool than that is his close proximity to all the new, fun happenings in Vegas for those tuned-in to the city’s new heartbeat. Downstairs, there is a series of small retail shops which are now just starting to populate the building. There’s a cool hair salon and even Resnick’s, a mini-market specializing in great prepared foods, organic offerings, and even, on occasion, a life DJ mixing the latest sounds…in a grocery store. Yep, this area is just, plain, cool.
So one day I get a txt message from my friend who resides there and he attaches a few photos of this new bar that opened in the building…The Lady Silvia (900, Las Vegas Blvd., South). This place was cool…I mean REALLY cool. As a professional photographer I’m always looking at places I go to and paint a scene in my mind of what I can do with it for a creative photo shoot or location for a corporate client in need of something unique. My brain is a never ending database of locations to shoot in. Yep, that’s how us goofy photographers’ brains work. So while I had never seen this place up close, the photos on my cell phone sold me that it was just a cool place to check out one day. Named after the mother of owner Sam Cherry’s business mentor, the lounge/bar is modeled after an old world library and is very unique, especially for Vegas.
Last October I wrote a blog about a recent photo shoot I did with two awesome models, Mariah and Madelon, over at the Cleveland Clinic here in Las Vegas. To day it’s one of my most read blog entries (big shock…it features two gorgeous models wearing super hero outfits…go figure?). Ever since I did that shoot, I’ve been booked for no less than two dozen other cosplay shoots. I never realized there was such a demand for people wanting to have photos taken of themselves in costume but with the huge popularity of the hobby and events like ComicCon promoting this, it doesn’t surprise me any longer.
Batgirl & Robin photos, circa 2010
One such shoot I was booked for came from a woman named Lisa that wanted to do a shoot as a birthday gift for her husband who used to be an avid comic book fan. If you were to take a snapshot of Lisa’s life today you’d see a woman who’s a mother working in a professional, white-collar, nine-to-five job. Hardly the kind of person you’d expect to be hiring a professional photographer for a cosplay shoot but in Lisa’s previous life some years ago, she was a professional model. Now it all makes sense. She had a professional vinyl “Harley Quinn” costume made custom for her by a well known costume designer and was dying to get some photos of her in it. This outfit was nothing short of amazing. For those of you not familiar with Harley Quinn, she is the psycho girlfriend of The Joker in the Batman series. We went into a studio and got some killer shots for which she has since told me were some of the best pictures of her she’s ever gotten. My already over-inflated ego just got a bit larger. 🙂
After the shoot she told me that she was hungry for more and said that if I ever wanted to do a larger, more complex cosplay shoot that she’d really want in. In addition, she also had other friends who might want to get involved in it too. This got me to thinking, how fun would it be to do a photo shoot with all of the major players from Gotham City? VERY fun. The question is, who could I get involved and where could I shoot it? This would require a bit of thought. I didn’t want to just hire models, I wanted to find people who trusted in my vision to create something fun just for the hell of it and to get some fun shots in their portfolio. A fellow photographer friend of mine recently referred to me as a “Jack of All Trades Photographer” to which I had to chuckle and agree with. He specializes in more commercial shoots but I tend to bringing a creative edge to photo shoots in ways many people never thought possible. In the last three months I’ve been hired to shoot for a real estate company needing pictures of their properties for their website (you’d be shocked at how creative of a mind you need to make photos of an office building look exciting), a wedding where we shot paintballs at the bride and groom, and even a photo shoot of a tattooed model in a ghost town to submit to magazines. Yep, if you can think of it, I’ve probably shot it at some point in the last 15 years. Because I’m frequently booked for professional shoots, I rarely have time to do what the industry refers to as a “TFP” shoot (Trade for Photos/Prints). This is where everyone involved donates their time and energy in an effort to create photos that will benefit each other. I turn down offers for these types of shoots several times a week but occasionally an idea pops into my head that makes a TFP shoot worth while. Different photographers have different opinions on TFP shoots but it’s always been my belief that, if done well, a creative TFP shoot helps to stir up the creative juices once in a while and I know that doing a TFP photo shoot of a model (Jessenia Fernandez) screaming in a tattoo parlor while “Painless Wayne” paints her helps to make me a better photographer when it comes to shooting a car for a rental car company. Creativity leads to creativity.
Green Lamborghinis and "Painless Wayne", welcome to Las Vegas!
Now I’m on a mission to create a shoot before Halloween of some sort of fun, cosplay shoot. The first person I call is Mariah…my Batgirl from the shoot a year prior. I love working with Mariah as she’s always a great sport and has a creative attitude that always yields photos that are way better than you can imagine. There is a reason you see Mariah in my portfolio in several locations! I called her up and asked if she’d be interested in doing another TFP shoot as “Batgirl”. “Are you kidding? I’m in! I even have some time off from school soon!” (Mariah is studying to get her Masters degree right now). Perfect, now a call to Madelon…my Robin from the prior shoot. She did such a great job I wanted to offer it to her first in this new shoot concept of mine. Madelon is the kind of model that a camera just loves. You can’t take a bad picture of this girl and her body of work is reflective of this. She has a very long list of magazines and commercial projects she’s shot for. A full-time student as well, she’s now foraying into movies now having gotten a part in an independent film now being shot in Vegas. I fire off an email to her and got an immediate response saying she’d love to be part of it. YES!
I get back on the phone with Lisa, the Harley Quinn. I tell her that I’ve got a Batgirl and Robin who want to do a shoot and she tells me she wants in, plus she knows a model who would be a perfect Cat Woman…AWESOME! Now all I needed was a “Joker”, but that would make it an odd-numbered bunch so I needed to think about a sixth model as well to round out the group. Hmmmmm…oh yeah, a Poison Ivy would be a good addition to this group, but who could I get for this? Then it hit me…SARAH JANE! Sarah is a model like none other. I did a shoot with her as a post-apocalyptic showgirl in Vegas earlier this year. Truly, the weirder the shoot, the more excited Sarah is to be part of it. In addition to modeling, she’s also a photographer and writer for one of the local magazines. A self-proclaimed addict to “shoes and wigs” she’d be perfect for this. I called her up and pitched her the idea. She laughed and said she was in. Now I just needed a Joker and a place to shoot. Lisa’s husband actually had a Joker costume but he unfortunately was out of town in the window of time we had to shoot this so that wasn’t going to work. Then it hit me…some time ago I did a shoot for Mariah and her boyfriend, Robert, who had never modeled before in his life. An ex-Marine, he was really new to all this. When I did the couple shoot for them, I was impressed at how easy he was to work with and he has a great look too. The energy the two of them share on camera is awesome. I asked Mariah if she thought he’d be game for being a Joker. After a quick consult with him, he said he’d love to participate!
So now everyone was researching makup, costume designs, poses, character personalities, etc. I even found a professional makup artist, Janet Chavez, who wanted to participate in this shoot to help Robert become "The Joker" so things were coming together nicely. This was going to be a great shoot…but where were we going to have it?
I didn’t want this to look like a sterile studio shoot; I really wanted it to have a background that was really unique. My wife Bethany fully admits that she couldn’t take a good photo to save her life, but she does have a really creative mind when it comes to these goofy projects of mine. She suggested I shoot it in a bar in town. But not any bar, it had to be some place COOL. There are a few lounges in town we frequent that I thought would make for a great backdrop and I contacted all of them. Some never got back to me, some had this theory that I was actually going to shoot porn in their club and turned me down, and some just didn’t have a clue what I was asking of them. The truth is, there are so many places in Vegas to get great photos. Seriously, if you’re coming to Vegas from out of town and have a camera, you’ll see very quickly that this city is a canvas for fun photos unlike any other place in the world. Even though I’ve been booked to do professional shoots in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, London, Sydney, Melbourne, and countless more countries and cities around the U.S., Las Vegas is still my favorite place in the world to get photos. The opportunities here are endless if you know where to look, even if it’s just fun snapshots in some very cool places.
So while I’m on my hunt for a location, my window of opportunity to do this shoot was rapidly closing. Rounding up six different models and a makeup artist to do a shoot at the same time is like herding cats. Then it hit me….THE LADY SILVIA. I got the name of one of the the owners and I pitched him my idea. The beauty behind working with creative people is that they understand creative ideas and the benefits therein…I was elated when Grant agreed to let us shoot in his location in exchange for getting photos of the place from the shoot. YES! Here’s the catch though, I was going into this blind. I still had never seen the place for myself, so this was a pretty big gamble. All my expectations of this place were based on some blurry iPhone photos. Maybe I needed to reconnoiter this place before I got my hopes up too high. That night I went to the bar to check it out. The moment I walked in I knew this place was beyond perfect. There was a live DJ mixing tunes from a booth in the back. The walls were adorned with literally thousands of cool, old books. The furniture was something right out of a movie set and the black-and-white tiled floors and victorian light fixtures made this one of the coolest looking bars I’ve ever seen. The place was packed and the staff was friendly and created an environment conducive to such a great looking location. Everything in this place just clicked, and it’s location, right in the Arts District couldn’t have been more appropriate. This place was a home run!
The Lady Silvia. A cooler Vegas hangout I haven't seen in a very long time!
Two days later before the bar opened for business, I arrived and started setting up lights. I turned this bar into my own photography studio and not long thereafter the models started showing up. First it was Lisa and Jes…my Harley Quinn and Cat Woman. They would take the longest time to get get into their complex costumes and do makeup so they went right to work and started to get ready. Madelon was next. She left to go change into costume and do makeup as well. Then Sarah arrived and entered the place in full costume and makeup. When I saw her in the green costume with her hair dyed red and pulled up my jaw hit the floor. My wife tagged along on this shoot as I really needed an assistant on a project this big. She even commented that Sarah looked the part better than anyone could have ever expected. People couldn’t stop commenting about her.
Sarah Jane IS Poison Ivy!
Madelon and Robert then arrived and Robert went right into another room to start on his makeup which we all knew would take some time. An hour later, everyone was ready to go and we had a team of models who looked nothing short of spectacular. We started shooting and the results we got were just fantastic. After we got the shots we needed, we had to rush to put the place back to the way we found it. After all, this WAS a business we were in, and the place was due to open soon. We were all having so much fun it was difficult to stop…everyone was in costume and wanted to shoot more and more and more. With what little time we had, we kept shooting until the very last minute we could. Once all my gear was packed and the doors opened, we all sat around and had a few drinks to celebrate a successful shoot. One thing is very true…the bartenders at The Lady Silvia sure know how to mix a drink!
After the shoot. Even super heros and villains need a break once in a while!
So after the shoot, I had a few local magazines that were interested in using some of them for a Halloween issue but due to deadlines for publication, they never got published. The idea for this shoot was great, the timing, not so much. Still though, the resulting photos below are what we made. It’s this level of creativity of all involved that makes those involved experts at what they do. Special thanks and shout-outs to all involved: Mariah McBride (Batgirl), Robert Runkle (Joker), Madelon Cullen (Robin), Sarah Jane Woodall (Poison Ivy), Lisa J (Harley Quinn), Jes Castor (Cat Woman).
Remember too, that creative thinkers get creative results where others cannot. To book your next photo shoot, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me direct at 702-204-1740. Of course, for details and to see my complete portfolio, please visit my website at www.shotbyadam.com.