“I love nightlife because you never know who you’re gonna meet,” says Merlin Bronques (pronounced like the New York City borough), the photographer who’s been making partygoers look like professional models since 2004 on his website lastnightsparty.tv.
Case in point: Alexis, a beautiful girl with “the sickest vibe” who Bronques spotted from across the room at Wild at Heart, a weekly Tuesday-night female-focused bacchanal in Heart of Omnia at Caesars Palace. He was there to scope out the scene, having been hired to shoot the party’s new ad campaign, and ended up finding his muse on the dance floor. “It was an authentic moment,” he says, still sounding awestruck. “She was completely undiscovered.”
Authenticity is important to Bronques. Raw talent has won him plenty of high-profile gigs with numerous fashion clients as well as brands like Nokia and Diesel. Yet he feels most at home riding the energy of a live event, with its unpredictability and unscripted moments. For the Wild at Heart campaign, he shot close-ups during the day on a controlled set, but then brought his models to the real party that night to capture what he calls “the X factor.”
This event is all about catering to women, so Bronques says he’s mixing “that ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ Cyndi Lauper vibe with debauchery.” As promised, the photos and videos have an ever-so-slightly risqué girls’-night-out theme, following a pack of gorgeous women (some models, but also Alexis; a girl named Macy whom he met at Life Is Beautiful festival; and Brie, who was working at Omnia when she caught his eye) as they dance, drink Champagne and strike poses in Wild at Heart-themed sunglasses. Or, in Bronques’ words, “girls just not giving a fuck.”
“He really understood the inspiration behind the goal of our campaign and the overall look we were going for,” says Michelle Wong, marketing manager of Omnia. “His photos have a great amount of sex appeal while remaining sophisticated, which perfectly captures the essence of Wild at Heart.”
The party debuted in May 2015 in the luxe Heart of Omnia. Billed as a haven for women to let loose with friends, it filled a hole in the Las Vegas nightlife scene.
“Usually you go to parties and it’s very guy-centric,” Bronques says. “They wanted something where girls could walk in and just be comfortable.” Having attended tens of thousands of parties over the past few decades, he knows better than anyone that it’s hard to control the vibe of the room. “You can’t really say that a party is gonna be a certain way and expect it to be that way; it depends on who shows up,” he says. Which is why he was instantly impressed by how different, and genuine, Wild at Heart felt. The people weren’t “the usual bottle-service crowd,” and the music, curated by special guest DJs and performers such as DJ Irie and O.T. Genasis, was electric—hardly your typical club’s ladies’ night fare.
Photos by Merlin Bronques
Which brings Bronques back to that X factor that inspired the campaign. “All of my work is based on taking a chance in order to get something beautiful that you didn’t anticipate,” he says. “Omnia embraced that. Now they’re gonna to have some images that don’t look like everything else in Vegas.”