Las Vegas—and its famous strip of casinos, hotels, and bars—only exists due to a series of historical coincidences. Among other things, the confluence of legalized gambling, quickie marriages, World War II (and the Baby Boom that followed), and enterprising gangsters came together and transformed a small railroad stop into one of the entertainment capitals of the world.

There are few other places where one can witness a sophisticated entertainment industry using all of its resources to attract millions of tourists. Its inducements are games of chance, vibrant colors, pop architecture, and “good times.”

Sometimes I feel as if I’ve photographed a group of bizarre and provisional stage sets where actors appear very briefly and then exit the scene. In a way that’s true. Las Vegas is full of transient people, and the buildings are notorious for their impermanence. That’s why I suspect I’ll likely have to be satisfied with capturing only the narrowest temporal slice of this intensely surreal city.

—Ed Peters