Photo exhibit ‘re-visualizes’ Las Vegas

Brian Jones, a photographer with the Las Vegas News Bureau, is taking iconic Las Vegas photos and giving them a new perspective in an exhibit called “Re-Visualizing Las Vegas.”

Whether it’s a black and white of Fremont Street in the 1950s or an image of any of the original Strip hotels, Jones has found a way to add a little flare to the pictures.

“It brings a new look and energy to these old photos,” says Lisa Jacob, director of the Las Vegas News Bureau. “It had such a great reaction from the staff.”

Photos from the exhibit are on display until Nov. 13 at the Las Vegas City Hall Chamber Gallery.

Jones, 55, has been a photographer most of his career.

“It’s funny because my only experience with photography was a class in high school,” he says.

When he and his wife moved to Kern River Valley, Calif., she got a job at a newspaper. Jones later got a job driving the paper delivery trucks.

One day, the editors proclaimed they were looking for a new photographer — most of the reporters took their own photos.

“I thought I could do a better job than them,” he recalls.

For the next five years, he worked taking photos of anything from fires to crime scenes.

“I would keep a scanner on me,” he says. “There is nothing better than beating the police or fire department to the scene.”

Jones won many awards while working at the Kern Valley Times.

“One photo that stands out is from a rodeo,” he says.

A bronc charged at a guy and threw him in the air. Jones got a photo of the man being lifted midtoss.

In the 1990s he moved to Las Vegas to work at the Henderson Home News.

In 1994, he got a job at the Las Vegas News Bureau joining a rich tradition of photographers documenting the city’s history.

“I got to document the rise, and in some cases, the fall of Las Vegas,” he says. “Everything from the changing skyline of Las Vegas to the implosions of casinos.”

Jacob says the bureau was established by the Chamber of Commerce in 1947 to attract tourists after World War II.

As a marketing campaign, the bureau would go out and take photos of people on vacation and getting married and send them back to their hometown newspapers.

“It would create a buzz about Las Vegas,” Jacob says.

Resorts also would pay for the bureau to come shoot events.

The News Bureau now operates under the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Jones says its works also includes photos of concerts, celebrity sightings and even the picturesque Las Vegas sunrises and sunsets.

One of his favorite photos is of Tiger Woods’ first win in Las Vegas.

“It’s when his mom comes out on the green to give him a hug,” he says.

But Jones loves to shoot downtown, especially since it’s in a state of change.

Because Las Vegas is constantly changing, he says photographers are usually updating their photos.

“The Vegas skyline is never the same,” Jones says. “You can shoot it every three months, and it’s different. The tree in front of a hotel might be bigger. There is always something.”

Since hotels are always updating, such as Treasure Island, which got rid of the pirate show, meaning new photos for the bureau, there is plenty to shoot.

Jacob says it also provides photos and video footage across the globe on anything from reporters and writers to filmmakers who need images of Las Vegas happenings.

Jacob says the bureau sent out 30,000 photos all over the world in 2013.

When not out shooting photos, Jones says the staff spends its time scanning photos.

Tucked away in the bureau is a vault of millions of film negatives from Las Vegas’ history.

“We still don’t know everything we have,” Jacob says.

Jones says it’s a privilege to be one of the few people to see some of the photos.

“There are many photos that have never seen the light of day,” he says.

Having an exhibit such as the one being put on gives the bureau a chance to share some of its historical photos.

About two years ago when the administrative office for the bureau started to be remodeled, it was decided there should be some art to decorate the facility.

Jones was tasked to take old black-and-white photos from Las Vegas’ past and add some character.

“It started with a handful,” he says. “I would just dabble with them.”

About two months later, Jones had 100 pieces.

Each photo would take Jones between half an hour and three hours.

“I don’t think I ever worked on one longer than three hours,” he says.

He doesn’t foresee himself working on anymore.

“There are hardly any left that you could do this kind of work to,” he says.

Jacob says the staff thought these were too beautiful to leave just for the administrative offices.

Instead, they decided to curate the photos taking the exhibit to various libraries around Las Vegas.

Jacob says this is pretty normal since the bureau does regular programs and exhibits.

“The biggest selection is at the convention center,” Jones says.

In addition to Las Vegas City Hall, some of the pictures are slated to be at Enterprise Library, 25 E Shelbourne Ave., until Sept. 28.

“Re-Visualizing Las Vegas” is expected to be at the West Charleston Library, 6301 W. Charleston Blvd., Dec. 7 until Jan. 11.

Contact reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5201. Follow @mjlyle on Twitter.

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