Life Beneath Las Vegas - a photo essay

So this is a feature I did for Loaded magazine UK in 2010 and to this day still one of my absolute favorites. I think about the characters I met that day and wonder what happened to them, if they managed to get rehabilitated and out from the darkness that is the Las Vegas tunnel system.

Here is my story:

This is a story I did for a magazine about the hundreds of people that live in the vast network of tunnels underneath the city of Las Vegas. Most have nothing but the clothes on their back, others have bare basics and a select few have elaborate comfortable arrangements. I met two people while down in the depths, Richard and Phil and while both living a transient life had completely separate living arrangements.

Both lived in pitch blackness, with Richard choosing to live in a 4-5 foot diameter sealed pipe about 4 foot off the ground. He had layered his home with blankets and a sleeping bag and made the most of it every night. He said the height kept him dry during sudden flash floods but the space was not ideal for long term comfort.

Phil on the other hand lives what I could only call a comfortable life underground. His tunnel was about 6 foot high and dark as night, a small pool of light penetrated from a drain opening. His setup was deeper than most but way more elaborate. He had a wardrobe, a queen sized bed, hangars and clean clothes and a lounge area. As comfortable as it looks he hates it down there and spends most of his time sports betting and credit hustling. A sports expert his wealth of knowledge amazed me.

Both hoped to be out of the tunnels soon as it was no place for long term comfort or health, my guide on the day Matt o' Brian took me in to the depths beneath Vegas. He is a journalist who stumbled upon the underground community by accident while exploring the sub city tunnels. Over the years he has built good relationships with many in the community and helps rehabilitate and rehouse many of the lost and unfortunate who seek shelter in the flood systems.

 The entrance to hundreds of miles of tunnels that lie beneath the city of Las Vegas

The entrance to hundreds of miles of tunnels that lie beneath the city of Las Vegas

 Richard 'Iron' is seen leaving the safety of his tunnel to beg for change at a local In and Out burger just 100 yards away.

Richard 'Iron' is seen leaving the safety of his tunnel to beg for change at a local In and Out burger just 100 yards away.

 Richard 'Iron' Portrait

Richard 'Iron' Portrait

 Richard 'IRON', 45 years old, homeless and living in the vast Las Vegas tunnel system. His home, a 4-5ft diameter sealed pipe, 4 feet off the ground keeps him dry. 

Richard 'IRON', 45 years old, homeless and living in the vast Las Vegas tunnel system. His home, a 4-5ft diameter sealed pipe, 4 feet off the ground keeps him dry. 

 Matt o' Brien, my guide in to the depths beneath Vegas. He is a journalist who stumbled upon the underground community by accident while exploring the sub city tunnels. Over the years he has built good relationships with many in the community and helps rehabilitate and rehouse many of the lost and unfortunate who seek shelter in the flood systems.

Matt o' Brien, my guide in to the depths beneath Vegas. He is a journalist who stumbled upon the underground community by accident while exploring the sub city tunnels. Over the years he has built good relationships with many in the community and helps rehabilitate and rehouse many of the lost and unfortunate who seek shelter in the flood systems.

 Graffiti adorned walls in a normally pitch black tunnel system under Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

Graffiti adorned walls in a normally pitch black tunnel system under Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

 Phil, livingly comfortably underground. His setup was deeper than most but way more elaborate. He had a wardrobe, a queen sized bed, hangars and clean clothes and a lounge area. As comfortable as it looks he hates it down there and spends most of his time sports betting and credit hustling. A sports expert his wealth of knowledge amazed me, he hopes to be out soon and with Matt o' Brians help will be. Amazing character.

Phil, livingly comfortably underground. His setup was deeper than most but way more elaborate. He had a wardrobe, a queen sized bed, hangars and clean clothes and a lounge area. As comfortable as it looks he hates it down there and spends most of his time sports betting and credit hustling. A sports expert his wealth of knowledge amazed me, he hopes to be out soon and with Matt o' Brians help will be. Amazing character.