Renowned photographer Jeff Mitchum doesn’t typically shoot people or buildings. Instead he’s earned international acclaim for his vibrant photographs of dramatic nature scenes.
So when Las Vegas philanthropist Larry Ruvo asked him to capture an image of the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in downtown Las Vegas, Mitchum decided to spend some time studying “the soul” of this architecturally wondrous building.
“I wasn’t interested in doing something that had been done before, because what’s the point?” asked Mitchum. “I might as well say, ‘Go buy so-and-so’s images.’ Done.”
As he studied the building, he was moved by the crescent moon rising from the horizon behind it. Over the course of several months, he ended up tracking the moon and its phases above the building — each symbolizing a different facet of the Alzheimer center’s journey from fundraising to healing.
The entrance to the 4,000-square-foot gallery, which includes more than 300 images, features his $1.7 million showpiece, “Third Day,” framed with a topographical map of Yosemite National Park and accompanied by the glass sculpture, “Icewall” by Markian Olynyk.
Gallery highlights include Mitchum’s “Masada Collection” and two never-before-seen images, “Castaway” and “Koholina,” as well as innovative eco-friendly furniture made from the wood of infertile coconut trees. These aesthetically pleasing, functional pieces create intimate spaces for gallery guests and collectors to enjoy Mitchum’s art.
The collectors’ images in the gallery are printed on unique archival paper and masterfully framed to Mitchum’s standards with elements relating to the photograph, such as Aspen bark and fossils.
A self taught photographer, Mitchum began shooting when he was 12. “My dad, he was a hunter, and we had to eat everything that we shot,” he said. “I was a kid and I said ‘You know, I just don’t like it,’ so he threw me a camera and said ‘Shoot it with this.'”
Mitchum’s father was a huge outdoors man and introduced him to many of the areas in his photographs. The first trout he ever caught was on the other side of the mountains from “Third Day” (pictured right).
He even hiked those same mountains with legendary photographer Ansel Adams, with whom he struck up a friendship at a young age. The late Adams’ hiking boots were gifted to Mitchum and are on display in his gallery.
The epitome of patience, Mitchum is known to take years in order to capture an image as he sees it in his head. “Third Day,” for instance, took 14 years as he waited for just the right light. Another shot, of Scripps Pier in San Diego, took him 20 years.
“There’s an emotional voice in what I’m picking up,” he explains. “I just sit there and … I feel the change of the light’s temperature and when it gets to a certain color, I know that it’s time to start shooting.”
There are probably only five images in the gallery that Mitchum says he shot just by chance. One such image is “Three Brothers” (pictured right).
“There’s no way I could predict the lightning at that particular time,” said Mitchum. “So then, when something like that happens, that’s where your technical abilities and skills have to be dead on.”
Photographers, he said, are like miners, uncovering layers in search for a vein of gold.
“We keep digging, we keep developing, we create and we just wait patiently until that season comes,” he said.
The Jeff Mitchum Gallery at MGM Grand is open daily from 10 a.m. to midnight. For more information, call (800) 763-3074.