I was born and raised in Las Vegas way back in 1970. As I've seen the city grow I've noticed the architecture change so radically over the years with the major casinos building everything from a replica New York City skyline to a reproduction of the Roman Coliseum, it's often the places you drive by on the way to work every day that goes the most unnoticed. Everyone tends to look at the world with a different filter as it applies to their lifestyle, career, or upbringing. An abandoned building to a real estate agent is different than the same property is to a photographer. One person sees it as a source of potential income, the other as a canvas for creating an image. As a photographer I think that I tend to look at the world with different eyes than most people. When I see an interesting building or some graffiti on a wall or an old neon sign I don't say, "Wow, that's cool" I say, "I have to get that in the camera!"
About a year ago I was driving down I-15 when an interesting building caught my eye. Early for my next appointment I took the next freeway exit and drove around until I found what I saw in the corner of my eye. It was, by far, the most amazing looking building I've ever seen in this city. I pulled into the parking lot and walked around the property that was, at the time, under construction. My bet is, if you live in Las Vegas you've probably seen this building before and, just like me, you didn't, or still don't know what it is. I'm referring to the Cleveland Medical Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health located at 888 W. Bonneville. This weird-looking building is, of all things, a neurology center! Designed by the same architect that designed the amazing Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Frank Gehry's unique sense of style is an awesome contribution to the city of Las Vegas.
If you're new to Las Vegas or just visiting, the Cleveland Clinic is just north of the Las Vegas Premium Outlet mall. As soon as I saw this spot I knew I had to photograph something there. But what? I knew that if I were shoot something there, it had to be good, and I mean REAL good. So I kept the idea in my back pocket for a rainy day. Then, one day in early August I got a phone call from Play Vegas Magazine who wanted me to do a shoot for the cover of their October/Halloween issue. They wanted something fun and sexy that involved costumes and some cool place in Vegas to shoot against. I brainstormed a few different ideas and one night, over dinner, my wife suggested, "Hey, why don't you do the shoot at that weird medical building?" In that moment I realized I had to shoot at the Cleveland Clinic!
OK, time for an important lesson on photographing buildings. As much as we'd like to think that we can walk anywhere and take a picture of something, there are some legal limitations. While it's true that in the Untied States you can photograph any public building you want it can only be done from public property or you must have permission to photograph buildings if you are doing so from private property. Yes, it's true, you can legally photograph any bank or government building you want provided it's done so from public property (such as the sidewalk). If you want to shoot private property on private property, you need to have permission. Now anyone who has ever been on vacation in Las Vegas will testify that people take photos all the time on casino floors, in hotel lobbys, and so forth, so why is it that every tourist doesn't need permission? The reason is many private properties, such as hotel/casinos are willing to let people take personal snapshots on their property…some even encourage it. But once you start pulling out professional cameras, flashes, or in the case of my shoot at the Cleveland Clinic, five 800 watt strobes using multiple battery systems, then they start to raise an eyebrow and may ask you to stop, or worse, ask you to leave.
Many photographers I know have adopted the motto of, "It's better to ask forgiveness than permission" and have gone to some pretty big extremes to get photos in places they know they shouldn't. This leads to them being ejected from the property and, on some occasions, being served a trespassing notice by the police. This winds up giving photographers, both professional or amateur, a really bad image. There's been many times in my life where I've wanted to get a shot so bad I would do anything to get it but then I came to my senses when I realized there was a better way to do so without disrespecting someone or their property rights…ASK PERMISSION! You'd be amazed at how many times I've gotten permission to shoot in the craziest of locations simply because I was polite, asked someone in authority for permission, and didn't do so without a huge chip on my shoulder. When I explain to a property owner or manager what I'm doing, what my intent is for the photos, and most importantly, what's in it for THEM (usually giving them a positive plug in my Blog, on my Facebook page, or even just giving them some photos from the shoot), way more often than not I get full permission to shoot wherever I want. I've gotten permission to shoot atop major resort hotel roofs, showroom backstages, and even at weird neurological centers!
So my creative juices started flowing and I came up with an idea of what to shoot. I ran a few casting calls on some model/photographer networking sites about doing a Cosplay shoot. Cosplay shoot (Cosplay is a term used for Costume Play…a type of performance art where people dress as super heroes, anime characters, etc.) My idea was to shoot a cool Batgirl & Robin scene for the magazine so I started looking for the perfect models to make this all happen. I bought the costumes and then needed two women to fill them. The first, Madelon Cullen. I shot her wedding photos months earlier and he had a perfect look for a sexy "Robin". Then I had to find the right Batgirl. After much searching I found the perfect model for the part…Las Vegas model Mariah McBride. She said she wanted to do a shoot like this for a long time and she so looked the part. With over 50 models wanting to do this shoot, I found the perfect "Dynamic Duo".
Now that I had an idea in mind, I made every effort I could to get in touch with someone at the center. It took me a few days worth of phone calls and messages left but eventually I found the person I needed to speak to regarding doing a shoot on their property. There was only one problem though.Eventually I made my way up to one of the marketing executives (as per her request, her name will remain anonymous). Here's the catch though…from the time I finally cast my models, got my costumes set, and scouted my location, the magazine went bust. That's right, there would be no "Halloween Issue". It didn't stop me though and wanting to make lemonade out of lemons, I still wanted to do the shoot as I had so much time and energy committed to it plus the two models were dying to shoot it. I had a few "Plan B" options in mind if the Cleveland Clinic didn't pull through but when I explained to them that I wanted to do a positive piece on their facility for my blog, they loved the idea.
Never would I have expected such a glowing invitation as I did by the fine folks over there. They told me that they rarely approve photo shoots on their property but they thought that something fun and something positive sounded great. They rolled out the red carpet for us in ways I never thought possible. They informed the roving security guards that we'd be there, they asked if we wanted the interior mood lighting to be turned on for the shoot, and so much more. "Accommodating" just isn't the right word. These fine folks bent over backwards to make sure we had a great experience and, without further adieu, here are the results:
So while we didn't make the cover of a magazine, we all worked together and got some spectacular photos regardless. Since showing these photos in one of my online portfolios I recently started getting all sorts of requests to do Cosplay shoots which I'm very much looking forward to. I'm even doing one for an upcoming magazine! So remember, if you're coming to Las Vegas and want to get some great photos at a slightly out of the ordinary location, just ask! If you go through the proper channels, as politely, explain that it's not all about you but about them, you'd be shocked at how accommodating people will be for you simply because you're not a headache, you're a source for fun that might just be a benefit to them in some way.
Since I did that Batgirl & Robin shoot back in October, I've had the pleasure of meeting many awesome costume designers and makeup artists that specialize in this unique performance art. If you're ever interested in coordinating such a shoot please call or EMAIL today for more details!
One comment on “Cosplay Photography in Las Vegas – On Location at the Cleveland Clinic”
I am a local photographer who is obsessed with taking pictures of Las Vegas.
I have encountered many obsticles trying to get shots I crave. Your advice of asking for permission was very much appreciated and absorbed.
Good luck with all of your endeavors.