Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
New York photographer Greg Friedler’s raw and beautiful portraits of everyday people rip away glossy veneers to capture personalities, traits and lifestyles while avoiding cliches.
The fine art photographer, however, is known mostly for his “Naked” books in which he photographs people clothed and naked and places the images side by side.
The first, “Naked New York” in 1997, resulted from his master’s thesis, and he followed up with “Naked London” and “Naked Los Angeles.”
“Naked Las Vegas,” being released this month, is the fourth in the series. It puts a face on our city through showgirls, attorneys, hospitality workers, store clerks, an engineer, a plumber, a truck driver, a college student, a college professor, a homeless man, a comedian, an actor and sex workers.
The photos were shot at Dust Gallery’s former location on Main Street. Several were taken during First Friday because Friedler had a hard time finding participants, partly because he’d postponed the project almost two years so it could be accompanied by a film.
The film, a documentary by David Palmer, captures Friedler’s Las Vegas experience, which was shaped partly by his 30-day stay in a casino.
Friedler recently talked with the Las Vegas Sun about the book:
You’ve said this book might be your best. Why?
Because of the characters I found in Vegas and because of the political atmosphere that’s there. It’s a very complex place, but it’s also very simple because it’s all about money. There are a lot of different people doing different things. But hovering above everything is the system, the casinos, and there is this raw capitalism and that is so, so, scary, but also just really fascinating.
Your other books are black and white. Why use color for “Naked Las Vegas”?
Vegas is all about modernity. The modernity of the lights just screams color to me. Black and white, you get more into the soul of the people, whereas the color is just the color. It just had to be color because it was Las Vegas. If you go to the top of the Stratosphere and look down the Strip, it’s nothing but one huge color palette.
Ironically, you didn’t have an easy time finding people here.
I had about 100 names, but what I found is that people in Vegas are not at all responsible. They change their e-mail. They change their cell phone numbers. They change their addresses. I would talk to someone on a Tuesday of one week and I’d call Tuesday of the next week and their phone was just disconnected.
That’s specific to Vegas?
Absolutely. Vegas is just a transient town. People are going back and forth to L.A. Then there are the people who go to Vegas to make it and they don’t make it and just kind of leave.
What about our professionals and families?
There are probably six or seven major different sides to Vegas. But it seemed like a lot of people who were not serious about doing the project and were not serious about staying in Las Vegas were the people who got in touch with me. I don’t know if those people thought that doing something like this would help propel their career or what. I don’t think an honest representation of you in the nude is going to propel your acting career.
How important was it to have an Elvis impersonator in this book?
It was really important. It’s totally emblematic of Las Vegas. It shows kind of the craziness of Las Vegas, of even having such a person exist, and I just thought as long as I’m going to have a bunch of normal people in there, I need to have people in there that represent what Las Vegas is all about.
How did our sex industry influence the book?
There were sex workers that looked completely normal, that were not erotic. Because of that Vegas might be the best example of naked photography that is not erotic. A lot of people can’t view a naked person without having an erotic response and that’s not what these books are about at all. These books are about the true person behind their clothes.