It seems like photographers are having a hard time translating the massacre on The Strip into powerful imagery. Maybe it’s because Las Vegas is so barren, just long streets and hotels set against the desert. It could also be because Vegas, kitschy as it is, is so visually banal. The newswires are filled with photos of makeshift memorials; hotel signs with electronic condolence messages; members of law enforcement combing the concert grounds. It’s that missing art, the creativity necessary to bring the tragedy and the horror home, that makes Nick Oza’s Instagram photos so haunting.
The picture was taken from inside the now notorious Mandalay Hotel. The image channels every photo we’ve seen of the building’s exterior since the attack — especially the terrifyingly distinct rooms 32134 and 32135. Nick’s photo is all about the curtain. (Filmy as it is, does the weave also evoke flames?) I can almost imagine myself pushing it aside, peering through the shattered glass at thousands of country music fans below. At the same time, it’s deathly silent. The only thing really there is Sin City twinkling in the night.
Then there is this.
I never gave a second thought to the Sphinx at the Las Vegas Luxor. In the chill hanging over the city right now though, the photo is riveting. Accentuated by the darkness, and with the sculpture pushed all the way to the right of the frame, that gaze is astonishingly suggestive. You could imagine it looking up at the Mandalay. (The angle is wrong but it is right next door.)
Or it could be staring in sadness or pain or disbelief. A civilization’s worth.
– Michael Shaw
(Photos: Nick Oza/Instagram. Caption 1: Grainy and sketchy nightmare at Mandalay. Caption 2: Mythology. Architecture series, Las Vegas, Nevada. )