“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”
“I didn’t write the rules. Why should I follow them?”
W Eugene Smith
I have been known to travel hours to gather some great smoked sausage, so traveling anywhere for a chance at great imagery is a given in my life. Ruins and rust have been a cornerstone of my images, so when I heard about a neon graveyard containing the fallen signs from the history of the sunset strip, I felt called to action. Located outside of Las Vegas, it is also considered a museum, so crowds and access are controlled by guided tours in specific areas. The idea of trying to create images while attached to a tour had no appeal to me, so in my correspondence with the museum director, I was offered another option: rent the whole place. So I did. They would empty the space for me from 5pm (just prior to dusk) through the twilight of 8pm. As luck would have it, I arrived during an epic heatwave, which for a region like Las Vegas is saying something. The temperature reached 115 degrees, and my orientation by the assistant provided by the museum challenged my decision to engage in activity. She insisted on a commitment to take time to find shade and drink water every 15 minutes. I settled on a commitment to make as many photographs as possible. In preparation for the trip, I had obtained a photographer's vest that I could hang three cameras off. It looked like a SWAT vest and of course was black. The more I worked, the hotter it seemed to get. Cameras started to overheat and shut down, so I would rotate each one—at first every twenty minutes, and then every five minutes. The available light glowed and twinkled, while these signs from the past showed off their fabulous shapes and colors. Finally, at ten minutes before my access time was up and long past when my assistant had abandoned me, all cameras quit. It was time to stop. I had that drink of water.