The ‘City of Lights’ guise of Las Vegas, Nevada, exists only to a four mile run known as the ‘strip’. Walk a little east or west of this and find yourself within a world overshadowed by the billion-dollar entertainment industry. When the thrill seekers, gamblers and party goers have reached the end of their hedonistic bout, they head back home, but for many, the city is home, a desert city recovering ever so slowly from economic hardship.
The excesses of the 1990s made the city a mega resort, when thousands of people from across the country travelled to Las Vegas in order to work on the enormous construction jobs of the casinos and hotels that began to line South Las Vegas Boulevard. Within ten years, the population of the city doubled and became the fastest growing city in the U.S. This golden era of Las Vegas came to an abrupt halt when the recession hit in 2008. The financial crash put a stop to any further construction jobs in the city putting many people out of work. Homes within the city rapidly decreased in value and a lot of residents lost their houses due to foreclosure, resulting in a sharp growth of homelessness. Without warning, Nevada became the state with the lowest unemploy- ment rate to the highest within a short few years.
Though time has passed since the height of the economic demise, the city’s recovery has not made the progress that locals would have liked, meaning that a substantial proportion of the population of Las Vegas live beneath the poverty line. The ‘strip’, on the other hand, has made a considerable recovery, with visitor rates climbing back to the 40 million a year mark. Recession or not, the amount of money that pours into the city through the tourist industry is substantial. However, the low tax rate within Las Vegas means that this enormous amount of money is not distributed back into the local economy, instead returning to the large corporations that own the hotels and casinos. Consequently large areas of the city remain stagnant, neglected, run down and forgotten.
The external perception of Las Vegas, Nevada, is one of wealth, excess and hedonism. While this notion rings true within a significant part of the city, there also lies a hidden reality of Las Vegas, one not seen by tourists. A city that for a while exemplified this concept of the American dream, a place for opportunity, prospects and financial success, quickly became a representation of America’s stark contrast of wealth and poverty. Maryland Parkway runs parallel to the Southern end of Las Vegas Boulevard, two miles to the East. This road is home to many misplaced and disaffected locals. The close proximity between the ‘strip’ and Maryland Parkway represents the fact that wealth and poverty sit side by side in Las Vegas, yet the millions of tourists who visit each year never see or experience this hidden reality. It is literally a parallel universe on their doorstep and the darker side of the American dream.'
Jack Minto attempts to emphasize subject matter that he feels
needs more attention in terms of societal awareness. His current series Maryland Parkway seeks to subvert external perceptions of Las Vegas, Nevada, a city known for its vast wealth and luxurious hyper-real tourism based on the gambling industry. This gloss
overshadows the socio economic strife of the poverty stricken areas that surround the Las Vegas strip. Jack uses Las Vegas to highlight the stark contrast of wealth and poverty within American society.