Instagram isn’t the right sort of social media platform for a lockdown. Facebook, for its myriad flaws, is helpful in keeping communities and families in constant touch. TikTok is a first-rate fun distraction; your kids were probably watching it for several hours a day long before this stay-in-place business started. And Twitter is one of our most prolific sources for impotent rage, bat-guano conspiracy theories and, desultorily, news.
Instagram, with its wish-you-were-here vacation snaps, live party broadcasts and luscious photos of plated restaurant food, seems ill-suited to a life lived indoors, clad in pajamas. But in the absence of take-my-hand influencers, creative control of Instagram is free to return to the first group who adopted it: artists and photographers. If you give an artist a tool like Instagram and a bunch of idle hours, he or she will find a way to build a project—and that’s exactly what these local Instagrammers have done.
Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s famed “Humans of New York” project, Bosco’s “Humans of a Pandemic” series features portraits of housebound Las Vegans sitting on their porches, with the photographer shooting them from an abundantly safe distance. Lending poignant counterpoint to these smiling photos is a long quote from their subjects, describing a life lived in stasis.
OUR LAS VEGAS
A project initially created for the Las Vegas Arts Commission, OLV is a showcase for the luminous street photography of Ginger Bruner. While many photographers have shot the abandoned hotels of the Strip, Bruner looks for other faces of the lockdown, and shares them here: queues outside of stores, artists painting boarded-up windows and rabbits timidly moving into an emptied town.
The (unofficial) mayor of midtown’s Paradise Palms neighborhood provides daily “Booze Reviews” from his swanky home bar. He pours, he takes a sip, rolls the spirits over his palate for a moment and finally offers a wordless gesture of judgment—sometimes a thumbs-up, sometimes a grimace. And his wardrobe changes, too: captain’s hats, kimonos. This is must-see TV.
I AM THE BLUE ANGEL
While Betty Willis’ classic piece of Vegas sign art has returned, completely restored, to a spot near its original Fremont Street berth, there’s something different about Downtown’s unofficial patron saint: She’s missing her halo, for one thing. This Instagram feed—which I strongly suspect was created by two of the proprietors of Downtown’s Sure Thing Chapel, Victoria Hogan and Holly Vaughn—brings the Angel off her perch. She’s in her classic guise—blood-red lips, busted-up magic wand—and wandering the streets for our common good: “Carrying the burden of a pandemic on my wings is what I was made to do,” she says.
Spiritually minded and with a creative style that seems to overflow with color, this painter and illustrator is using her Instagram in a wholly earnest way: as a window into her current, lockdown-inspired work. My two favorites: her paintings of actor George Hamiltion enjoying a cocktail (“Maybe I’ll call it ‘George Quarantini’”) and of deity Quan Yin, whose face she’s painted “to be one of compassionate listening.”
BURLESQUE HALL OF FAME
The BHoF’s recent posts have been a little cheeky; they’ve been reposting vintage photos of burlesque legends—locals Georgette Dante and Marinka, among others—retouched to include face masks. But seeing as COVID-19 has postponed the BHoF’s annual fundraising event to an August date, it’s entitled to get noticed however it can. Visit bhof.link/covid to donate to this sexy local institution.
When the stay-in-place order was announced, this longtime Las Vegan (and onetime Weekly contributor) was staying in the Northern Nevada town of Ely. Inspired by the lockdown, she began documenting her morning walks with her dog, providing lonely and beautiful daily snapshots of a rustic mining town with a population less than 5,000 people that’s staying homebound for the public good.
The erstwhile host of The Miss Behave Gameshow presents Palms International, a shortform Instagram series featuring currently unemployed, Downtown-dwelling Strip performers wondering aloud if Vegas entertainment will ever come back. “I probably got enough Top Ramen … to last six months,” one says ruefully. “Doesn’t mean I wanna eat it.”