Author Archives: rkchurchill

About rkchurchill

I am a freelance photojournalist working in Sin City. I live to photograph the weird & wacky, and believe me, there is plenty in this town. You can see samples of my daily work for national newspapers, wire services and commercial clients at: www.rondachurchill.com or by simply typing my name in a search engine. Page views, reposts and comments are always welcomed and appreciated. Thank you for viewing my slice of images that made the cut.

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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Grandma’s Camera, part 2

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Charlene Cecilia Wolf

(March 22, 1928- April 22, 2018)

Charlene, beloved mother of 6, grandmother of 13 and great grandmother to many passed away peacefully with family at her side. My mother, whose own mother passed away very tragically in a car wreck, was with Charlene as final breaths were taken. My mother knew her mother-in-law longer than her own mother. Charlene was “mom” to many.

Weeks ago, I wrote an unpublished blog post when I returned from Illinois after spending quality time with my grandmother. I have saved those words and will revisit them at a later time.

In Illinois, I photographed my grandmother on a day that she felt well. We looked at my prints from a previous trip that I exposed with her mother’s camera, ate popcorn, talked about grandpa and his visits in her dreams, and exchanged stories about his “pennies from heaven.” I even witnessed my grandmother’s very first manicure. She chose an electric teal that a nurse named “I’ve-never-done-this-before Blue.”

In the photograph, one of two frames I took on the 100-year old Brownie, tiny paper hearts hang in a tree behind her. The hearts revealed handwritten notes to loved ones of past and present and were left over tokens from Valentine’s Day at the care center.

In the image, my grandmother wears one of her favorite shirts, her hair is full, her nails are painted, and she has a slight smile. I know today that her smile is huge because she is no longer in pain, is not afraid, and is reunited with the love of her life.

Thank you, grandma, for being you. You will be missed by your big family.

Author’s note: See previous blog post for Grandma’s Camera, part 1

Grandma’s Camera, part 1

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Brownie 120 film: ocotillo cactus in Baja California, Mexico

I will always remember the first photograph I developed in a darkroom– the U.S. flag flapping in the wind before the St. Louis Arch. The photo, which I shot on my parent’s Minolta camera, popped to life in the developing solution in the soft red light before me. I was immediately hooked. Photography has always been in my blood.

Before the Minolta, I grew up around the fine arts of music, drawing, painting, writing and dance. Even though I was playing impressive six-page sonatinas on the piano in middle school, my first formal photography class wasn’t until my first year of college. It so happened that my favorite drawing class shared the same hall as a photography class. My attention kept driving me to the photo class’ open door.

Well before college, I had begged my parents for a Polaroid camera, which would be the very first camera that I owned. I still have hoards of Polaroid photographs of my stuffed animals, best friends, siblings and vacations. That camera was the first of many cameras.

Several years ago, my grandparents moved out of the house where they raised their six children, and my grandmother gave personal items she wished to pass on to her 13 grandchildren. I wasn’t surprised to find that she gave me a compact Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie that exposed 120 film through its nice bellows. Included with the camera was its original instructions manual complete with a $3 price tag. I kept the treasured camera within a collection of other old cameras I had accumulated as gifts from family members. This sort of collection is fairly typical of a professional photographer. All who have “the eye” are really drawn to the history of our passion.

However, it was not until my grandmother fell ill last month that an intense need to shoot with the camera grew within me. I wanted to take photos to show her, and I desperately wanted to make her proud. When I told her of my plan, she informed me that the camera was her mother’s, my great-grandmother’s, and that the camera that I held was approximately 100 years old.

So when my husband and I planned a five-day road trip, a trek that would take us south through the desert of Southern California and into Mexico along the Sea of Cortez, there was no question that I would include the Brownie in my arsenal of film cameras for the trip. Along with the Brownie, I chose to bring a plastic $30 Holga camera I had since college, including a partially exposed roll of 120 film inside it. I also chose a 1970s 35mm Canon AE-1 with a fixed 50mm f1.8 lens. I was set with these three film cameras plus my iPhone and a digital Sony mirrorless. To say my husband is a patient travel companion is an understatement.

All the posted images were shot on one of three film camera bodies. All frames are scanned prints with minimal toning. Imperfections in the prints are due to several factors such as: age of the film, light leaks, dust (especially on my grandmother’s Brownie), and wear/tear of cameras.

Next month, I have a flight home to St. Louis to visit my grandmother and to celebrate her 90th birthday. At this time, I truly hope we can have a lovely discussion, and I will take the prints with me, although she’s a hip lady and will most likely already see these digital prints here. Lastly, I plan to make a portrait of her with the third-generation Brownie. After all, my camera was designed for this very thing.

Ronda Churchill is a freelance photojournalist living in Las Vegas. You can follow her on Instagram @rondachurchill

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Brownie 120 film: Cadrón cactus in Baja California, Mexico

 

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Holga 120 film: sunset near the Sea of Cortez in Mexico (l). A home in Bombay Beach at Salton Sea, California (r)

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Holga 120 film: Double exposures at Kelso Dunes, California

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Canon 35mm film: Playa Hawaii in Baja California, Mexico (top & bottom left); Bombay Beach in Salton Sea, California (top right); Detail of sand at Kelso Dunes, California (bottom right)

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Canon 35mm film: Ocotillo Cactus in Baja California, Mexico (l), dunes at Glamis, California (r)

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Holga 120 film: East Jesus, Slab City, California (l), Bombay Beach in Salton Sea, California (r)

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Brownie 120 film: Sea of Cortez at sunrise

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My great-grandmother’s Kodak No.2 Autographic Brownie (l), a portion of my film camera collection including the Brownie, top right, and instruction manual (r)

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My grandmother Charlene with me and my brother (l) and her with one of her many great-grandchildren (r)

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Portrait at the Salton Sea (l) and working at Kelso Dunes (r). Photographs by my husband Jim on my iPhone.

Adults Only

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A model that goes by Weed Slut 420 sinks into a ball pit on the showroom floor.

Close your eyes and imagine you could visit a place where you are immersed in adult sex fantasy. Open your eyes. You are at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas.

For the third consecutive year, I attended and documented real-time erotica and was one of more than 50,000 attendees. Everything sex, including: well-known adult entertainment stars, “Cam Girls” live streaming for tips, loads of all types of bedroom toys and apparel, and fetish demonstrations can be seen in one bustling hotel convention space that hosts a multitude of mainstream events and concerts at any other time of the year.

It takes quite a mind shift to exit a typical Vegas casino space, passing blinking machines and tourists, in order to enter a world of sex where anything and everything goes.

Standing in security near the main halls, one may see a woman leading a chained man wearing a head mask. Sex slaves and their masters also attend the show. And for the price of less than $100, you can attend too. However, attendees and media alike must sign an agreement that states touching and inappropriate behavior with models and exhibitors is strictly prohibited. The master and her masked man must have arrived together.

The expo prefaces the main card of the Adult Video News Awards and red carpet event, where the biggest names in adult entertainment walk a red carpet, weaving through the casino length, to an awards ceremony for the previous year’s film work.

Since 2012, Hard Rock Hotel has hosted the AVN Awards and expo each year in January shortly after the culmination of the city’s massive Consumer Electronics Show. Whether visitors to Sin City are viewing larger-than-life home electronics or adult stars, January in Las Vegas will not disappoint.

*Ronda Churchill is a freelance photojournalist working in Las Vegas and can be booked at http://www.rondachurchill.com Follow her on Instagram @rondachurchill

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A model stands among confetti at the VIXEN booth.

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An elderly man, left, takes a photograph of customized adult toys while another attendee gives a closer inspection.

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Jean, center and last name withheld, participates in a whip demonstration.

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(top left) Juniper, a Cam Girl, flirts with a client while live-streaming at the convention. (top right)  A Cam Girl’s computer is adorned with stickers and external lighting. (bottom) AK Ginger Snaps is illuminated by a modeling light at a live-streaming booth.

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Mr. Bunny XXX roams the showroom floor to hand out self promotional materials.

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Anja models her homemade embellished bra.

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Adverts for online entertainers, pens, pins and condoms are displayed on a freebies table.

 

 

 

 

Halloween on Fremont

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A woman from Texas dressed as a nun plays a slot machine at The D hotel-casino.

Halloween might be my favorite holiday. People stress over which home or city to celebrate in and what food and gifts to give for nearby Thanksgiving and Christmas, but Halloween offers a much more fun opportunity to gather with friends and family. Throw in the fun of costumes, and it’s a win-win holiday.

As New Orleans is to Mardi Gras, Las Vegas is quickly trending to be a Halloween hotspot. Since Las Vegas is the city that celebrates everything weird and wacky, it should come as no surprise that Halloween is big here. Nearly every establishment features a unique gathering.

Perhaps I favor the holiday more than the average person because I met my husband on a blind date six years ago on Halloween. We ducked from the evening sun into a dark bar on Las Vegas’ historic Fremont Street in 2011. What I noticed more than his Dos Equis beer’s “Most Interesting Man In The World” costume were his kind demeanor, honest personality and nice hands. My husband says that I was engaging and had a good smile. I like to think I conveyed a warm personality despite being dressed as a dead prom queen.

Afterward, we walked under the famous nearby canopy to “people watch,” which is still one of our favorite social pastimes. As we walked, a cluster of people all dressed as Where’s Waldo? ran past us. We took an elevator to the top of a lookout area to view costumed pedestrians, and we commented with laugher on the most unusual ensembles.

At the end of our brief evening, I made him stand for a photo next to an arcade game not unlike the fortune teller machine in Tom Hank’s cult classic “Big.” The customized case before us featured the bust of an old man named Pappy. My date, who wore a month’s long beard that was dyed gray and little commercial branding for his costume, resembled the old man puppet ever so slightly.

This Halloween, when I drove down the never-ending loops of the casino parking garage, I commented to my sleepy and slurry husband that this particular evening was my favorite evening of all of 2017. We had such a fantastic time revisiting “our bar,” people watching with an older Minnesota couple on “our” overview looking spot, and walking the length of the canopy in our costumes. I was Lucy. He was Charlie Brown complete with football. We handed out Halloween candy from a gift bag to the children we encountered, and we even accumulated extra treats from people thinking that we were trick-or-treating.

There is no denying the encompassing and exciting vibe that is Halloween on Fremont Street. It is one that begs to be witnessed. For those who were not lucky enough to see it in person, I offer up this treat.

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

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Pam and John Casteel, of Michigan, are dressed as cock hunters. “Well, weve been doing Halloween every year that we have been together. It’s been 44 years,” he said.

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A young man wearing a Snow White dress weaves his way through the crowd on Fremont Street.

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People walk along Fremont Street under the canopy (left), a man participating in a group costume wears shot glasses in place of rounds of bullets and holds a beer.

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A man in a customer pours beer into a plastic glass outside a souvenir shop. Glass containers are not permitted on the street.

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A woman in a flapper costume stares at her losing 75-cent ticket after playing the slots.

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A couple in costume walks along Fremont Street.

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Russell Nunley, of Salt Lake City, looks at his phone while dressed as Elliott from E.T. He purchased the basket he holds for $5 from a manager at Albertons grocery store.

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Photos in our home of my husband, left, and I on the night we met.

#vegas

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Two shattered windows are shown where mass shooter Stephen Paddock, of Mesquite, Nev., took aim down on innocent concert attendees.

(copied from original post that appeared on my Instagram page (@rondachurchill) on Monday, Oct. 2 at 10 p.m.)

I still can’t seem to put this day to rest. These are the windows, one with curtains billowing from it, the other several panels to the left of first, where a shooter took aim and ambushed people attending an outdoor festival across the Las Vegas Strip. Last week, I was photographing all day at the same concert venue and stepped out for an hour to capture photos from the rooftop of this same hotel. Security escorted me. The view was breathtaking.

This morning, I was on the Strip at sunrise working alongside friends, colleagues and professionals in this business we call home. We saw heartache, tears, blood and displaced people. After being on scene for 90 minutes, I was forced into an emergency evacuation while editing inside a nearby property. In those first, heart-pounding moments, I thought to myself, “This is it. It’s happening again.” I knew I wasn’t the only one thinking this as I ran with tourists and employees. Everyone was going different directions. I was told to hide in the bathroom or run outside to the pool. Luckily, it was a false alarm, but the incident ignited my veins with fear and adrenaline. This is what those concert attendees felt, but infinitely worse–bullets and chaos and carnage. The most awful part and the most extreme unfair and unkind thing in the entire world is that some of them do not get to write about it to feel better.

For those of you who have suffered great loss today, I hope that you find peace.

1-866-535-5654, for families trying to locate loved ones

lvmpd.com for blood donation sites

Author note: Ronda Churchill is a freelance photojournalist based in Las Vegas for the past 14 years. She is available for assignment anytime. Email: rkchurchill@aol.com

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Survivors of the mass shooting make their way back to their hotel room shortly after sunrise.

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A single vase of roses is shown on Las Vegas Boulevard the morning after a mass shooting occurred nearby.