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 light, offering, “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.