the book - Naked Las Vegas
This is the fourth book in the “Naked” series, but it is quite different from the proceeding three books. For starters, this book is in color. Color fits Vegas like a glove. The neon lights along the Strip create their own unique sub reality. The Strip is a five mile stretch of casinos, restaurants, entertainment, lights, attractions, and so on. The Strip is a Disneyland for adults. It is a façade like no other in the World. It is a place that represents a crude, slick version of the American dream. The Strip is all about raw capitalism that offers a fabricated bliss for those that indulge.
Everyone is trying to realize their dreams in Vegas, the American dream of making it, living the high life, and being worth lots of money like the icons Wynn and Trump.
I went to Vegas in August 2007 to shoot the book. Vegas is a very transient town. People come and go by the thousands every day. Tapping into the underbelly of Vegas was far from easy. I was going after documenting Vegas and the people who live there or work there. There is a huge divide between the minority “haves” and the majority “have nots” in this man-made paradise. It is no surprise that I did not get celebrities or other glamorous people from the Strip to pose for this book. They have no incentive for doing my Naked Las Vegas because it exposes people the way they truly look and because I do not pay my models.
I am completely mesmorized by people, by raw humanity. What do people do for a living? How does this in some way define a person? Where does a person fit into Society? What do people dream of doing or being? What class is someone? Can we arrive at a person’s essence based solely on their raiment?
It is clear to me now that this book is not at all about eroticism. It is about identity. The nakedness serves a purpose. When naked we are all equal, on a bizarre even playing field, stripped of clothing, stripped of Society’s judgments and expectations. We are pure, pure as the day we came into this World.
Almost every visitor to Vegas stays on the Strip and does not venture beyond it. Outside of the Strip is where one will find the underbelly of Vegas. There is no reason for a visitor to Vegas to stray from the Strip because it has everything anyone could ever want or need. If one were to venture a couple blocks to the East or West of the Strip, they would discover a City in very bad shape. Methamphetamine drug use is rampant, teen pregnancies and teen suicides are through the roof, the social services are hurting, and crime is really bad.
It is no surprise that most people know nothing about this side of Vegas. The casinos and media keep it under wraps for good reason: it is bad for business. “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.
I found it strange to meet people who had little to no education. I hung out with different crowds in Vegas and few of these folks had college level educations. This intrigued me as someone who analyzes people because these peoples’ counterparts in other cities would generally have a good education. A buddy of mine explains it like this: “ If you can make 150 K as a valet or 250 K as a stripper, why would you strive to better yourself and get an education? You have lots of cash in place, drive a fancy car to impress people, and believe that the money will continue to flow.”
I met another interesting woman who worked at a peep show, one of the very last in Vegas. She had many stories but what stuck with me the most was her expression that she was a “human vending machine.” This meant that she worked in a peep show where patrons watched her through frosted glass and they fed money through a small opening in order to continue to watch. As long as the patrons feed money through the slot, the window would remain open.
I photographed an escort who was also an exotic dancer. She was quite nice and surprisingly down to earth. She had tattoos everywhere. She had four lovers’ names tattooed on her. She was not with any of those men any longer. David Palmer (the filmmaker) and I asked her what the BOP tattoo was. She was quite shocked we did not know. It means “Ballin Off Pussy.” In other words, she made her living by selling her body. She has been renting out her pussy since she was 15 years old when she left home and began turning tricks on the Strip. She was a tragic Vegas story.
I simply loved the homeless man I photographed for the book. He had such an amazingly positive energy. We can all learn a lot from him. Here is a man who has very few possessions, but he was sweet, so genuine, and so loveable. He has found Jesus. He too had no pubic hair. This is hard to comprehend. He has to worry about finding a place to rest his head every night but makes sure that he shaves his pubic hair whenever he is fortunate enough to take a shower. Only in Vegas baby.
David Palmer (the filmmaker) and I had many fun and surreal experiences in Vegas. We were privy to the amazing stories of everyone I photographed. Some sad, some uplifting, all informative. It is these stories that will play an integral role in the film that David is making about my journey that is Naked Las Vegas. We were invited to a nudist party in some guy’s backyard. We showed up and we were the only people there clothed. There were about 80 people totally naked simply having a great time: naked volleyball, bodypainting, fire breathing, and so on. It was strange because after two hours in this environment, I honestly stopped noticing that people were naked.
We went to a Meet & Greet. This was a discreet get together for high end escorts and their clients or “johns.” We learned a lot that night. I got three of the women to pose for the book but they insisted on being labeled something other than as an escort. Every man at the party was married in their other life. The women all said that 95% of their clients are married.
I would like to thank the many brave souls who posed for the book. I met many really incredible people within a sea of genuine flakes. Keep it real, follow your dreams, have faith. - Greg.