Empty

The desolate downtown and Arts District are photographed on Day 10 of a statewide quarantine for COVID-19 in Las Vegas. The notorious Fremont Street Experience is closed off to pedestrian traffic and security guards stand by. Local artists have painted plywood that boards small businesses’ window fronts. Southern Nevada hunkers down for what I only fear is the beginning of the new normal.

Ronda Churchill is a freelance photojournalist available for hire worldwide. You can follow her on Instagram @rondachurchill

24 No More

While the world holds its breath, reality infects the people of Las Vegas with the truth that we are in the grasp of a pandemic. What once was a passing thought of bad luck for a town in China across the world dealing with a virus that sounds more like an adult beverage, is now a great fear. Our hometown, a showy 24-hour city, has gone dark.

Nevada is officially in a State of Emergency, and on Tuesday evening Governor Steve Sisolak ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses, which includes all casinos.

Workers are ordered to stay home, and the city cashes out. Only a handful of stranded tourists, homeless population and journalists remain on Las Vegas’ most famous 4 miles of road. The following photos were shot on Day 1 of the governor’s order.

Ronda Churchill is a freelance photojournalist available for hire worldwide. You can follow her on Instagram @rondachurchill

Hallowow

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I met Jeff at a part-time job I took to supplement my photojournalism income.

Jeff is amazing, to say the least. First of all, he is a recovering alcoholic with over two years sobriety, which I think takes a huge amount of courage. He is a survivor of a many things, including a gay bashing assault.

He is hilarious. On my last week of work, he brought me bags of candy (we both love the sugar) and a balloon with the word Princess on it. “Here,” he said shoving the whole lot into my hands, “They didn’t have one that said ‘you’re an asshole.’”

Lastly, he is quite the seamstress. He designed and sewed his entire octopus Halloween costume. It took him roughly 60 hours and 20 yards of material. Last year, he was a mermaid. The underwater theme is kind of his thing.

Thanks friend for keeping me sane while on the clock. People really are awful, and I think everyone should have to serve tables at some point in their lives, sooner rather than later. Moving forward in my career, I hope to be as fearless and fabulous as you.

 

Ronda Churchill is a freelance photojournalist available for hire worldwide. You can follow her on Instagram @rondachurchill

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“Unknown”

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I have always been drawn to cemeteries.

Perhaps the often-photographed location of a cemetery has always been ingrained in my photographer’s blood. Maybe the lure to explore them stemmed from my childhood memories of my mother speaking to her parents’ graves while we visited the quiet, tranquil space and my younger siblings and I examined the rows of nearby headstones. Above all, the way a community documents and celebrates the resting place of their loved ones is quite telling of the culture of its living population, and I always find myself  documenting these plots of lands.

Last week, forecasted rains dampened my Memorial Day weekend camping trip in Southern Utah. Before heading back to town, my husband and I stumbled upon a little cemetery near Mormon-settled St. George in the somewhat ghost town of Silver Reef. It was there that we found the town’s Pioneer Cemetery, a small cemetery declaring the land to have graves of both Catholic and Protestant faith. Inside the divided cemetery, among weathered headstones and blunt grave markers were 32 graves marked “unknown.”

I jumped out of the truck with my camera as wind whipped around us and dark clouds moved in upon the small plot nestled at the foot of a mountain and sprawling country homes built over a 19th century silver mining town.

Sadness was palpable as I shot frames of uniform white crosses with unidentified bones buried beneath them. The hand-crafted markers were a small forest in an ordinary field. I took my time and moved around the land, while my husband walked our dog along the perimeter, knowing I needed space.

Although only a couple frames made the cut, I would like to think of these images as a small tribute to the miners and their families that lay below.

“Unknown” is a part of an untitled and ongoing series. Follow photojournalist Ronda Churchill on Instagram @rondachurchillblog3road

Free admission

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Free Admission

A decayed water park
thirsty in the searing California desert,
is quenched by spray paint

Applied color,
of lines and shapes conveying
love, hate, pain, politics,
reside on the sun fun skeletal remains
a slide with no slide
a pool with no pool

“Freckle face”
“I’m a nurse; I do crystal meth”
“Leon loves Heather”
It’s a community poem,
the common thread: expression
I take my piece too
for my little blog post

The smell of spray paint hangs in the air
I am alone in this charged space
later frightened by an artist then two lovers
we find ourselves on this ride

Lake Delores Waterpark that once was wet
now flows with an artsy, niche vibe
where lovers and haters gather
to leave behind a permanent mark
on an impermanent, changing space

 

Lake Delores Waterpark, with slogan, “The fun spot in the desert!” closed its doors permanently in the late 1980s. Ronda Churchill is a freelance photojournalist available for hire worldwide. http://www.rondachurchill.com
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Intergalactic Art Car Festival

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On a very windy Saturday evening, a vacant lot in downtown Las Vegas was transformed into a futurist light and fire show. Members of the community were drawn to the event like bugs are seduced by lantern light on a dark, summer night.

For one evening, we had our own little Burning Man in the desert. Decorated cars and sculptures suddenly transformed and moved, all seemingly fueled by the surrounding upbeat techno music. Children laughed and pointed as parents and young lovers alike took photos and danced. People came as they were and left with a smile in their heart. That’s the funny thing about art; it moves you.

Photographer note: All images shot on iPhone X. Ronda Churchill is a freelance photographer based in Las Vegas available for hire worldwide.

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