Together Alone

A Photoessay On Las Vegas Amid Quarantine

On March 13, 2020, Nevada Governor Steven Sisolak declared a state of emergency in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, which ultimately led to the longest shutdown of the Strip, casinos, and businesses in state history. The last time Vegas casinos shut down was in 1963 when JFK was assassinated, and that was only for one day. Committed to documenting Las Vegas during the state-wide shutdown, local artists and photographers Krystal Ramirez and Mikayla Whitmore masked up and captured images of a rare sight: a darkened Las Vegas. On their socially-distant walks down the Strip, downtown, and the Arts District, Ramirez and Whitmore highlight the people still afoot and the grandeur of the city’s abandoned architecture. Months after those creative Krystal reflected, “Looking at these images is bittersweet. Our state started out doing so well. It is easy to feel helpless as we are now ranked at the very bottom with some of the highest infection rates in the country.” Mikayla concurred with Krystal, and considered the impact of national storytelling in this lightoffering“I think it is really compelling to see these images now and especially important to have it be from the perspectives of two-lifetime locals, who happen to be longtime friends. Las Vegas has always been a target of Hollywood romanticizations and outsider journalism perpetuating the stories and images of a self-imprisoning mantra ‘What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.’ It has been especially interesting since the beginning of the pandemic to watch from the sidelines the representation of Las Vegas in national headlines – often imploring the same tropes, during a time of political unrest, and a general sense of unease. I really hope as the dust starts to settle, we start to see a wider representation of local talent and voices on a national scale.”

On June 4, casinos opened back up. These photos reflect parts of Las Vegas in a liminal state.

Las Vegas Blvd. and Tropicana at dusk. Courtesy Mikayla Whitmore.
The iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign with no line. Courtesy Krystal Ramirez.
A boarded-up vintage clothes store (Vintage Vegas) on Main Street, in the heart of the Arts District. Courtesy Krystal Ramirez.

Curbside pickup at Family Foods Market on Fremont Street. Courtesy Krystal Ramirez.
Empty and boarded-up buildings along Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas; (left) the former location of independent bookstore, The Writer’s Block; and (right) the defunct restaurant Chow. Courtesy Krystal Ramirez.
Two folks look onto a blacked-out Fremont Street Experience. Courtesy Krystal Ramirez.
A poem? A highway sign reads “Wash Your Hands Stay Healthy Avoid Covid-19” along the 1-15 looking north. Courtesy Mikayla Whitmore.

A ghost bike parked along northbound lanes of the I-15 Highway. Courtesy Krystal Ramirez.
Two folks cycling near the Strip. This photo’s structure recalls the cover of Thomas Sayers Ellis’s The Maverick Room. What’s foregrounded, and what’s in the rear? Courtesy Mikayla Whitmore.
Barricades at the entrance of a closed Circus Circus (Las Vegas Boulevard). Courtesy Krystal Ramirez.
A jaywalker crossing at the juncture of Harmon Ave. and Las Vegas Blvd. Courtesy Krystal Ramirez.
Toting toilet paper down Las Vegas Boulevard. Courtesy Krystal Ramirez.
A desolate intersection at Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard. Courtesy Krystal Ramirez.
A maintenance worker cleans an escalator outside New York, New York. Courtesy Krystal Ramirez.
Maintenance workers clean escalators. Courtesy Krystal Ramirez.
A maintenance worker cleans outside the Wynn as the hotel’s signage looms over her. Courtesy Mikayla Whitmore.
Pigeons frolic and survive outside of the Venetian. Courtesy Mikayla Whitmore.

The socially-distant Silver Nugget facade, boarded up, but reflective. Courtesy Mikayla Whitmore.
The silhouette of a flamingo flock shimmers flamboyantly above a gathering of three Las Vegas Metro police officers. Courtesy Mikayla Whitmore.
“Our Next Act Will Be Even Better,” says a Park MGM display. Courtesy Mikayla Whitmore.
A masked taxi driver and an unmasked passenger in the backseat. Courtesy Krystal Ramirez.

Uplifting signage at the MGM: “WE DON’T HAVE TO BE TOGETHER TO STAND TOGETHER.” Courtesy Mikayla Whitmore.
A billboard near The Polo Towers, paid for by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation: “The National Debt, $71,919 per person.” Courtesy Mikayla Whitmore.

An empty pedestrian bridge near the Twin Peaks restaurant. Courtesy Mikayla Whitmore.
A crumpled pair of plastic gloves on an outdoor stair set. At first glance, it’s hard to tell if the item is tissue, gauze, or a discarded mask filter. Courtesy Mikayla Whitmore.
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