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November 20, 2017

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Viva Arts Vegas: Tom Zaller promotes culture with Imagine Exhibitions


National Geographic

Joanna B. Pinneo’s “Sandy Baby.”

Click to enlarge photo

National Geographic's "50 Greatest Photographs" exhibit at The Venetian on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. Imagine Exhibitions President and CEO Tom Zaller is pictured here.

50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic

National Geographic's Launch slideshow »

Editor’s Note: While Robin Leach takes his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun and along the Amalfi Coast in Italy, many of our Strip personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue today with Imagine Exhibitions CEO and President Tom Zaller, the mastermind behind many of the exhibitions presented in Las Vegas.

During my 20 years in the entertainment and exhibition industry, I have been fortunate enough to work with many amazing projects. I’ve always had special ties to Las Vegas, as I helped introduce “Titanic: The Exhibition,” “Bodies: The Exhibit” and The Mob Attraction Las Vegas to the city.

Through my involvement with these Las Vegas exhibitions, I began to notice how hungry this city was for arts-centric entertainment. Partnering with The Venetian, I opened the Imagine Exhibitions Gallery in June 2012 — a space that would be dedicated to hosting a variety of limited-engagement installations. Located in the gorgeous main lobby of The Venetian, this gallery would provide new options for artistic and cultural experiences in the city.

Imagine Exhibitions Gallery celebrated its first anniversary in June and is currently home to “The 50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic.” We introduced this stunning exploration of iconic photos in February and recently extended the exhibit’s engagement to January due to popular demand. This was the perfect successor to the gallery’s first installation, “Da Vinci: The Genius.”

While many photo galleries stop at the image’s name, place and date, “50 Greatest Photographs” goes a step farther by incorporating detailed descriptions through video and text. This background information makes each photograph’s story come to life like never before. We’ve heard our guests say they leave the exhibition with an appreciation for what it took to capture these adventurous and fascinating photographs.

One photograph I particularly enjoy is Joanna B. Pinneo’s “Sandy Baby,” taken in 1998. Drought had plagued the area of the sub-Sahara since the 1970s, and Joanna was sent to cover climate change and its effect on Tuareg nomads there. She visited a clan living about 80 kilometers outside Timbuktu, Mali, with nothing but gestures and smiles as a form of communication.

Joanna emphasizes the peacefulness of the experience and recalls the mother curling up, on the floor of the tent, to nap with her two daughters. Sand sifted under the tent opening and onto the baby girl, Isah. That warm afternoon, as all three slept peacefully, Joanna decided to capture the moment. It was not until much later that she realized the natural glow and elevated grace of the photo.

Imagine Exhibitions Gallery also has provided me with unique ways to partner with the Las Vegas community. During the months of June and July, we have invited local teachers to experience the exhibition for free. Teachers play an incredible role in society, and this is our way of saying thank you.

Since “The 50 Greatest Photographs” and “Da Vinci” were so well received in Las Vegas, I often get asked, “What’s coming next?” All I can say is Imagine Exhibitions Gallery will continue to introduce more exciting exhibitions for locals and visitors alike to enjoy. Stay tuned, Las Vegas!

“The 50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic” is open daily from 9:30 a.m. – 7 p.m., last ticket sold at 6 p.m. Ticket prices: general admission, $16; students with a valid ID, Nevada residents, military and seniors, $13; children ages 12 and under enjoy free admission when accompanied by a paying adult. Taxes and fees not included.

Check out our other guest columns today from artist Michael Godard and cowgirl Trish Lynn and on Thursday Luxor headliners Jabbawockeez, John Fitzgerald of Ri Ra Irish Pub, Milo Kostelecky of Las Vegas Film Festival and Shine Alternative Fitness founders Russ Petroni and Dima Shine.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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