In faces in a crowd, a view of the world, there for all to see

It takes courage to do what Lamar Marchese does, but the founder of public radio in Las Vegas isn’t the timid sort.

Marchese walks up to strangers and asks to take their photos. If they agree, he stands five or six feet from them and shoots away, focusing on their faces.

Cowardly folks like me don’t ask, use their longest lenses and hope nobody notices. That is how I once got in a spot of trouble in Venice with a streetwalker, who noticed my efforts and didn’t take kindly to them.

Last Saturday, a friend and I saw Marchese’s photo exhibit called “Namaste: Faces of India and Nepal” at the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art in Neonopolis.

The first reason I’m writing about this is that the show is excellent and is on display until Jan. 5. If you like faces, this is a treat, especially for an entrance fee of a paltry $3.

The second reason? Who knew there has been an art museum on the second floor of Neonopolis since 2008? My friend and I didn’t. Marchese himself didn’t. And we’ve all lived here for decades and take pride in knowing “our town.”

I’ve long admired Marchese and his wife, Pat, for all the Florida transplants did to make Las Vegas more livable. In 1980, he started the city’s first public radio station, KNPR-FM. She was with the city and the county, building their cultural affairs departments.

After Marchese retired as general manager of KNPR-FM in 2007, he decided to give more time to photography.

“I’d done landscapes and close-ups of tiny objects, but it dawned on me after retirement that what I really liked was faces and people.”

This show was rooted in a monthlong family trip to India and Nepal in 2011, making memories for them and their adult children and a daughter-in-law.

His exhibit shows his fondness for children, but he also is happy capturing the painted faces of holy men and beautiful women. The 16-inch-by-20-inch portraits are practically life-size.

He asks first and nine times out of 10, receives permission. Often, the person he wants to photograph asks: “Why?”

Usually they’re flattered by his direct response: “You have an interesting face.”

He takes four or five shots, doesn’t get their names or life stories, then is on his way. His memory is of the conditions surrounding the taking of the photo. It’s up to the viewer to imagine the life story of the person in the picture.

His favorites in this, his fifth show, include a little girl titled “Nepali Angel,” a holy man titled “Neat Sadhu” and “The Great Divide,” three children on the other side of a barbed- wire fence. All spark the imagination.

Sometimes his titles make you look closer. “Village Man With Friend” looks like just a man, until you spot the fly on his forehead.

One of my favorites was “Saucy Santee.” Marchese said the girl, perhaps 10 or 11, approached his son and said she was trying to learn English and wanted to buy a dictionary. His son complied. Later they learned this was a common scam. The girl would find people who would buy a dictionary for her and she would return it to the bookstore to be resold.

While I’m recommending Marchese’s exhibit, the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art offers other artworks, both for viewing and for sale. For more information, call 382-2926 or check the website at www.snmfa.com, where three of Marchese’s photos are shown.

If you do what we did and combine the museum with dinner downtown at the classic Hugo’s Cellar at the Four Queens, plus a stroll on frenzied Fremont Street, it’s a perfect taste of downtown Vegas, where there are plenty of faces worth photographing.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call
702-383-0275. She also blogs at
lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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