Hunter Barnes – Off the Strip

Photographer Hunter Barnes has an extraordinary ability to document aspects of culture and communities often ignored by the mainstream and frequently misrepresented in the modern American narrative. In his latest work, Barnes explores the Las Vegas that was, by documenting the people who shaped the town in its heyday.

Known for developing strong relationships with his subjects and forging bonds with the people he photographs, Hunter Barnes spent January of 2017 meeting the original characters of old Vegas. Their lives a vivid reminder of the past, Hunter’s subjects in Off the Strip are a living embodiment of the now-lost landmarks they frequented and defined. Remaining sites like the old Cigar Lounge, where the real Las Vegas characters of the late 60s and early 70s still hang out, are as much a part of Barnes’ Vegas story as their devoted clientele.

Barnes’ remarkable portraits provide rare insight into the people and landmarks of the real Las Vegas. From former Casino boss Johnny Rulli to Lisa Medford, the first nude showgirl, and Bobby Martini, former bodyguard. There are lounge singers, pit managers, boxing judges, cocktail waitresses and peep shows. This remarkable study of Las Vegas captures a unique blend of obscure and familiar detail, enabling Barnes to continue his quest to reveal communities so often forgotten and on the verge of disappearing.

In addition to the monochrome portraiture for which he is most known, this series also includes a remarkable selection of colour images shot on the streets off the strip. While being striking images in their own right, they also add another level of context to the black and white portraits. 

In his early twenties, Hunter Barnes (b. 1977) self-published his first book, titledRedneck Roundup, which documented the dying communities of the Old West. Other projects soon followed. Four years were spent with the Nez Perce tribe; months with a serpent handling congregation in the Appalachian Mountains; bikers, lowriders, and street gangs; inmates in California State Prison. Intense and true, these are sub-cultures of America that are often overlooked or marginalised. Hunter shoots exclusively on film – the pace of analogue being in harmony with his approach. Fundamental to his work is the journey, the people and the places. Hunter then commits them to film before they are greatly changed or simply gone forever. 

Off the Strip is published by Reel Art Press.