I just returned from a 3 day assignment in Las Vegas, doing a travel story for a Spanish language magazine. It’s been 22 years since I was last in the neon-lit, desert town with a camera, working on a story with Gino Siang, a young Cambodian refugee and gang member who I spent nearly two years photographing as part of a story on the Cambodian diaspora. One of my favorite images was taken as we passed the famed Flamingo Casino on the Strip, in Gino’s beat-up Buick Century. This was back in my film days, using hand-rolled Tri-X b/w film, on camera flash, balancing that flash against the back light to make sure I recorded all the detail behind.
Technically, I’ve always loved this image but I also love its aesthetic qualities – the image shows Gino looking nervously over his shoulder, always on the lookout, always looking for potential threats. Gino was involved in numerous gang clashes in Long Beach and was again a refugee, this time moving to live with his sister in Chicago and escaping his past. Las Vegas was a stopover for us, and my first introduction to every photographer’s best friend – great light (continues below).