Look, Las Vegans — it’s Las Vegas.
“People go to Town Square, which is a fabricated downtown, instead of experiencing these wonderful things we have here,” says photographer Angela Bellamy. “It’s such a photographed city, but we don’t really look at these other parts that are so close.”
Literally providing wide exposure, Bellamy’s exhibit at the Charleston Heights Center, titled “The Pano Project” — as in “panorama” — finds what’s interesting in the ordinary. “My favorite thing is telling a story,” she says.
Turning her lens on businesses we frequent every day, Bellamy captures the blur of activity — people actually caught as blurred images — in scenes depicting establishments including a garage, a barbecue joint, a doughnut shop, a barber shop and a laundromat.
“It was a class project and evolved from there,” says Bellamy, who was studying photography at the College of Southern Nevada. Not that she followed her teacher’s instructions. “We were playing around with panoramas and we were told to do people, not interiors,” she recalls. “So I went and did interiors. It was just more fun and interesting.”
“Pano” began around the corner from the college’s Cheyenne Avenue campus. “It’s the Maverick Cafe, and if you blink you miss it,” she says about the no-frills eatery, lined with simple white blinds and red booths. “You go there for cheap coffee and burgers and fries. It’s such an interesting, gritty little place. There’s like 20 semitrucks in the parking lot every time you go there, and there’s this adorable little man there every time I go in.”
Call it a curved case of calories: Bellamy snaps the rich pastries of All Star Donuts, tempting in all their fattening glory, as is the output at H&H Barbecue that’s also photographed. Foodstuffs give way to car parts at an auto repair garage, alive with the details — car on a lift, mechanic under a hood, shelves jam-packed with parts and tools — of a business doing its business.
Behind the scenes at a dry cleaner, we peek in on what customers rarely see when they hand over their tickets — the pressers and massive racks of clothing rotating toward a good scrubbing. “I heard somebody refer to this as a sweatshop, and that made me sad,” Bellamy recalls. “These were very happy and friendly ladies, despite how busy they were and the heat back there.”
Particularly interesting, visually, is an old-style barbershop, bursting with color and details: two customers getting haircuts, others waiting, a Colts World Champions banner from 2007, a foosball table and rows of pictures of women in bikinis. Aside from having to sweep away cut hairs, a perfect man cave.
And a photo with a sense of irony.
“The Hair Club for Men was on TV,” she says.
Titled “Elton Tom,” a portrait focuses on a video store catering to a gay clientele — titles shown include “29th & Gay,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “Will & Grace” — and run by a big Elton John fan, surrounded by Elton memorabilia, including a hanging feather boa.
“I asked him to play for me,” Bellamy says, “and darned if he didn’t sound exactly like Elton John.”
Venturing to Reno, a bowling alley makes for a gorgeous, sprawling shot, mostly devoid of bowlers. “I loved all the lines,” she says, referring to the separations between the lanes. “All the repeated patterns, they seem to go forever.”
At White Cross Drugs, Bellamy was touched by simple kindness. “I saw a homeless man come in, and as long as he pays his $2, they give him a bowl of soup, not a hard time,” she says.
Customers of a different sort amused her when she shot at a laundromat, capturing two men staring at a TV. “Those guys, I don’t think they were doing their laundry,” she says. “I think they were drunk watching Mexican soap operas.”
Additional photos portray the downtown bus station, the former Atomic Liquors, an upholstery store and Anderson Dairy, providing a special treat.
“Hands down the nicest place to shoot in Las Vegas,” Bellamy says. “Anybody can get a tour with the big glass walls, like ‘We love our business; come see how the milk is made.’ They gave me a little hair net so I could shoot, then gave me ice cream after. The sweetest people.”
Take another look at Las Vegas, Las Vegans.
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.Preview
“The Pano Project” by Angela Bellamy
12:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday through Oct. 27
Charleston Heights Arts Center Gallery, 800 S. Brush St.