In the past, photographers wanting to document Nevada's workers headed for the mines, forests, ranches and irrigated farmlands. But no more, according to photojournalist Kit Miller. Today's workforce can be found in the state's casinos.
Miller, a Nevada native, says she took on the project of interviewing and photographing this new Nevada workforce to confront some myths. "The myths tell us that casino workers are stupid and really exploited, that they're victims without a life." Instead, Miller discovered diverse people with multifaceted lives, including many women and recent immigrants who see their jobs as steps toward something better.
Getting to know the people who grease the wheels of the gambling empire was less difficult than expected, Miller says. "A lot of the people I interviewed said, 'Geez, it's about time someone talked to us.' "
Miller hopes to publish a book based on her photographs and interviews, but for now her work can be seen until Nov. 3 at the C.I.T.Y. 2000 Gallery, Reno City Hall, 490 S. Center St., Reno, Nevada (702/329-1324).
"Usually it doesn't take long to fix a machine. When I'm done I show my hands to the cameras so they see I don't have a handful of money. ... I work swing shift, my wife works graveyard. It takes both of us to run the house in this type of life." (Mike Hart shown here with his sons.)
"We are the only union hotel in town now. When the whole town is union it's going to make it better for all of us ..."
Pai Gow Poker Dealer
"I came to the United States because my husband is political refugee. The United States government bought airplane tickets ... We arrived in Reno without even a dollar! I just think it is beautiful, quiet, and very large, quite different from my country."
"I came down to Reno and worked cocktailing for years. There was a lot of sexual harassment. That was one of the reasons I quit. The girls that had the best stations and the early outs and Fourth of July off were the ones that were sleeping with the boss. ... (At my new job) we're paid $7 an hour. The people at Goals Unlimited don't think it's possible to live on minimum wage, so they pay us what they think is right."
(Marilyn Jackson, front, shown here with her counselor Gina Jackson at the office of the Committee to Aid Abused Women.)
"When I have free time, especially in May, June and July, I do a lot of botanical consulting work. This plant here is one of the 18 I've discovered new to science, and one of five that's named after me. It's called stroganowia tiehmii. ... You have to have a life away from the casino.
Otherwise, it's going to get to you."