Las Vegas Art District Graffiti (Part II)

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Since my last blog entry about the Las Vegas Art District graffiti I've been swamped by emails from photographers wanting more information on shooting, tourists wanting me to photograph them there, or even local residents just wanting more information on the kinds of things you'll see there. As such, I've been approached by a wide variety of models and entertainers wanting to do a shoot there so I've been churning around in my head creative ways that I could make a really amazing shoot out in that location work and in this blog entry I'm going to share with you the results. Scouting through all the hundreds of photos I have of the area, I finally settled on one location I wanted to use as a backdrop…

I chose this spot because of the wide variety of color and uniqueness of the artwork to use as a stage for what I wanted to create. There were two major issues though. The first is that the graffiti was sprayed across an indentation where the wall expanded into two different levels. You can see this dividing point on the left side of the image near the center. So if I were to shoot here, I would have to use only one section of the wall but due to the size of this image, that wasn't going to be a problem as this entire image spans approximately 15-20 feet. The second issue was that there was a corrugated tin awning that loomed over this side of the building. As you can see, shooting at virtually any time of the day was going to cause some pretty ugly lighting issues. So, my only choice was to shoot this at night.

This now created an entirely new set of problems. The first was security. Where we would be shooting was not exactly the safest part of Las Vegas. We would be going behind dark buildings in a highly industrialized area of Las Vegas. Gang activity is high, there were many homeless people in the area, and we would have no easy access to a public area if we needed to be on the move so there was a bit of risk involved. Being that I would be lugging around about $7,000 in camera gear and would be followed by a model in high heels, crazy makeup, and some quirky outfit on, it's not like we didn't stand out. Lastly, do do this shoot at night meant we would have no light. Ambient light in the area was virtually non-existent so out I go with my monolights, soft boxes, and umbrellas all wired to a Vagabond II power pack. I was, in essence, creating my own studio out in the middle of some abandoned buildings.

Now that I had a location and logistics in mind, I had to find me a model. I actually struggled with this issue for quite some time not really knowing what I was looking for. Did I want a tall blond bikini model or someone with more experience in urban modeling and fashion? I put out casting calls in all the usual places I frequent online such as Model Mayhem, Craigslist, etc., and I got a ton of responses. Over 100 in all and I just wasn't finding who I thought would be great for this until I got an email from a local model named Kitty LaRose. Kitty, a 21 year old model, originally from Utah, had a very "girl next door" look and in her email, she expressed to me that she really wanted to expand her portfolio into something very different than the simple, wholesome shots that she had modeled for in the past. After we met for a pre-shoot interview I knew this was the perfect model for my "vision". Next up, makeup…

There are many great and talented makeup artists here in Las Vegas but, without a doubt, the best I have ever worked with is Tai Shane. Her husband, Adam is a great friend of mine and fellow business partner in photography and these two make for one impressive team. For makeup, I wanted something as wild and crazy as we could come up with. Here are some shots from Kitty in the makeup chair…let the transformation begin!

I envisioned a black band across her eyes, airbrushing across her face, some insane type of hair, the works. 2 1/2 hours of makeup application later and sorting through a variety of wigs, we came up with a look on her that was nothing short of spectacular. It's amazing what happens when you work with professionals at the very top of their game! Here is a headshot I got of Kitty mere moments after Tai finished her art…

Kitty was starting to really come out of her shell and now we were off to go shoot. Luckily for us, it wasn't a long drive to the location we were going to shoot at. By this time the sun had already gone down and it was about 8:30PM. We parked nearby and I knew it would be about 3 trips back to the car to get all the gear and props needed for this shoot. The night before I was custom creating some cool spray paint cans to be used for props, so those had to go out to the location. Then there was all the camera gear and lighting, etc. While I was not seriously afraid for my personal safety, I was more concerned with all my gear exposed in a somewhat unsavory part of town and, more importantly, my 5'1" tall model wearing a black PVC dress, fishnets, high-heels, purple and black makeup, and a pink wig standing out by some abandoned buildings. After a brief amount of time, I had all my lighting setup and we were ready to shoot.

Kitty jumped right in and really played the part to perfection. The image I wanted to capture was of a punk-rock girl getting caught painting graffiti and, angrily, took her aggressions out of the photographer, spraying paint right into the lens. We tried a variety of different lighting scenarios and angles and eventually settled on using just two monolights in this type of configuration:

The resulting shots we were getting were nothing short of magnificent. Right when we were about to get a few extra shots, Kitty looks at me and says, I think we're in trouble. A police car pulled in around the corner from us. With big, bright studio strobes flashing for over 30 minutes, we figured someone called the police on us. While I was afraid that we were going to be cited for some trespassing ordinance or shooting in the city without a certain permit, Kitty was freaking out over her attire. She was convinced she was going to be arrested for prostitution! So, we packed up and started walking back to the car, which was about 20 feet from the police were at. It turns out, they pulled someone over for a traffic violation and all the time were walking back to my car with camera equipment and a model that looked like something from a sci-fi movie, not one person even gave us a second look. You just have to love Vegas sometimes!

So after reviewing all the images, I narrowed it down to just one. It was a difficult task as we had so many great photos to choose from. While I generally do all of my own touch-ups on the photos I shoot, this one needed more of an artist. I wanted to have some paint sprayed at the camera with the effect of paint splatter on the lens. This was a bit outside my skillset so I contracted the job out to my new Photoshop expert, Jose Ortiz of JT Graphic Designs. Jose had a brilliant idea that, in addition to the digital art he would create for the image, he would take actual spray paint and spray it on a piece of plate glass and then photograph the results to use as a layer on the photograph. The results were just awesome! So a few revisions later and almost 2 months in the works, this project was now complete. You can now see the results for yourself…

It just goes to show that with some creativity and a great team of passionate, talented artists who love what they do, you can make a simple wall transform into something truly magical.

Want to book a shoot with some killer graffiti? Give me a call at 702-204-1740 to book your session now!

2 comments on “Las Vegas Art District Graffiti (Part II)”

  1. glenn says:

    great shot bro! I will be shooting like this.

  2. chelsie says:

    i love your work..i would love to be a model for you ..its beautiful…and she looks beautiful..i live in vegas and sacramento i really appreciate your work and love to get lost in it.


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