Artist Catherine Borg's newest project finds Sin City amid photographs taken for the 1995 film Casino.

Approached from the highway, the Las Vegas Strip appears as if in a pop-up book. Dazzling and disorienting in color and scale, it looks flat against the monochrome desert. In the popular imagination, that's how the entire city remains: one-dimensional, a place for glitter and vice.

Artist and former Las Vegan Catherine Borg wants to add depth to that image of Las Vegas as Strip alone. "I can’t tell you how many times I would get asked, 'People actually live there?'" she says. "And I'd always have fun telling them, 'Yes, two million people live here.' It was like they were reading from a script."

(Catherine Borg*)
(Catherine Borg*)

Borg's recent project "Scouted" also relies on film references, but in a way that she believes presents a "more dimensional" view of the city. By assembling and re-contextualizing composite photographs taken by location scouts for the 1995 film Casino, Borg is giving new life to "back-lot" Las Vegas: "The banal stuff, the intimate stuff," she says. "What you don't see in 30-second commercials."

(Catherine Borg)
(Catherine Borg)
(Catherine Borg)

Borg discovered the photographs in the archives at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas five years ago while looking for inspiration for a bus-shelter design commission. Maggie Mancuso, Casino's head scout, had donated what Borg estimates to be about 2,000 images. Patched together, they reveal the city's less-than-glamorous interiors and exteriors: Anonymous motel rooms, back yards crammed with patio furniture, a man smoking in his living room, a big-rig loading dock.

(Catherine Borg*)
(Catherine Borg)
(Catherine Borg*)

The Hockney-esque fractures, unusual lighting and vintage colors of the photographs give them a particular aesthetic appeal. (Mancuso was looking for locations that fit Casino's 1970s setting, which makes the 1990s stills doubly retro.) Yet, "these are drugstore-developed photos," says Borg. "They weren’t ever meant for historical record, or to be artistic." But by sifting through and displaying these images—which could have so easily been trashed—Borg gives meaning to them and the city they represent.

(Catherine Borg*)
(Catherine Borg*)
(Catherine Borg*)

It's significant, too, that she's working on this project even now that she lives in Baltimore. "Using images of the city from 10 years before I lived there, taken by people I didn't know, [it's] a way of processing my time there," she says. "It's like having a rear-view mirror."

(Catherine Borg*)
(Catherine Borg)
(Catherine Borg)

*Borg notes that she is still processing some of these images for mounting and display.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    The Cities Americans Want to Flee, and Where They Want to Go

    An Apartment List report reveals the cities apartment-hunters are targeting for their next move—and shows that tales of a California exodus may be overstated.

  2. photo: a pair of homes in Pittsburgh
    Equity

    The House Flippers of Pittsburgh Try a New Tactic

    As the city’s real estate market heats up, neighborhood groups say that cash investors use building code violations to encourage homeowners to sell.  

  3. Equity

    A Visual History of the U.S. Census

    Vulnerable communities are bracing for an undercount in 2020. It’s a familiar story that traces back to the Articles of Confederation.

  4. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  5. a street scene from Vienna, Austria
    Equity

    Secrets of the World’s Most Livable City

    Viennese lawmaker Maria Vassilakou explains why the Austrian capital ranks so high on quality-of-life rankings, despite its rapidly growing population.

×