Architecture in Las Vegas, for all its uniqueness and historical intrigue, has been treated poorly. Imploded, razed, blighted by neglect or swallowed in the breakneck pace of recent decades of growth, the individual prominence of once-relevant buildings gets lost. With much of the population having recently arrived there’s a chance for more emotional disconnect, and buildings become vaguely familiar strangers.
But In Focus: Downtown Architecture at Las Vegas City Hall has photographers Jennifer Burkart and Ryan Reason extracting them from the shuffle, new and old, for individual portraits that showcase their distinctive personalities. In most of the images—25 buildings were selected—there’s a sense of personal reverence. They’re pieces of a community, intimate and warm.
Burkart and Reason, founders of commercial photography studio Square Shooting, were chosen last year by the City of Las Vegas’ Office of Cultural Affairs to capture Downtown buildings with architectural significance. Some were picked by the city. Others were selected by Burkart and Reason, mainstays in the arts community who wanted to highlight structures people pass every day but rarely notice while sharing elements of the city they love.
An image of the John E. Carson hotel on 6th and Carson looks more like a painting rather than a photograph and hangs alongside an image of the front façade of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church -- the neon sign parallel to the church’s wooden doorway and religious artwork.
The photos, now part of the city's permanent collection, are designed with such a sense of community in mind that even oft-photographed landmarks, such as the Frank Gehry-designed Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, are presented up close and personal, rather than remote and distant. In several images tree branches in the foreground draw the viewer into the image, whether it’s the Bonneville Transit Center or Smith Center and Symphony Park.
Whether capturing the municipal, religious, cultural or social institutions that round out a place, they portray depth and a connection in buildings not normally celebrated in an area all about carefully packaged imagery.
In Focus: Downtown Architecture Through November 19; Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Las Vegas City Hall Chamber Gallery, 495 S. Main St., 702-229-6511.