Happening upon the rundown Maryland Parkway, the young graduate found the flip side of the gambling mecca
From vacant parking lots to intimate street portraits via expansive stretches of the Mojave Desert, the Las Vegas of Jack Minto’s project, Maryland Parkway, is somewhat unfamiliar. Bypassing the glitzy lights, flamboyant buildings and raging commerce that characterise the famous Strip, the 21-year-old photographer turns his lens on a nondescript parallel road, two miles east of the action and home to many “misplaced” local residents, in a bid to expose the harsh reality of a city divided by economic inequality.
“I felt like Las Vegas epitomised an ever- prevalent aspect within American society: the stark contrast of wealth and poverty,” he says. “Las Vegas seemed to be a city which could make you or break you and this concentration of these two extremes existing side by side was what drew me there,” he explains.
Minto, who recently graduated from the University of the West of England, has long been fascinated with American culture, having got into photography after stumbling upon the work of American artists Bryan Schutmaat and Daniel Shea in the independent publication Mossless. After working on a personal series about masculine identity, he decided to get back to the roots of his interest and embarked on a journey of discovery in the US.
Though driven by an initial idea to focus on wealth distribution, it wasn’t until he arrived in the entertainment capital of the world that he happened upon what was soon to become the object of his attention. “When I arrived in Las Vegas I knew what I wanted to photograph, but Maryland Parkway wasn’t the focus of the project,” he says.
“The hostel I was staying in was at one end of Maryland Parkway and the film lab I was using was at the other, so walking up and down the road was an almost daily activity. Along the way I would encounter many interesting characters who I’d speak to and then ask if I could take their photograph. Maryland Parkway became the anchor of the series.”
Capturing the slow pace of life on the neglected street through candid portraits and quiet details of daily life, the series is punctuated by subtle hints of the excess that exists just around the corner; a gaudy keyring emblazoned with a Las Vegas symbol, a tourist with a selfie stick, or a lone woman playing a slot machine in a featureless grocery store.
“I wanted to represent the two realities but mostly to go against external perceptions of Las Vegas being a solely touristic city,” Minto says.