O’donned Memorial Park. “Online with a LIVE dealer.”
“Police Dept. moved to 2715 Atlantic Avenue.”
Now, I been lookin for a job, but it’s hard to find
Down here it’s just winners and losers and don’t
Get caught on the wrong side of that line
Well, I’m tired of comin out on the losin end
So, honey, last night I met this guy and I’m gonna
Do a little favor for him
— Bruce Springsteen
The Nixon's tapes of this era will be Trump's tweets.
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) December 3, 2017
A few more digital images — I’m also shooting both 4×5 film of most everything — but they take some time to process and scan. The picture directly above was made with my pocket digital camera with a small lens that can be poked through the openings in chain link fences. That was the case here.
All the 4×5 images for this project are being made with a lightweight camera called a Travelwide, which has no movements and no ground glass. You set the focus manually based on distance, and you can even handhold it, though I usually stick it on a tripod. Last Thursday in Atlantic City was reasonably temperate, but it was very windy. So, the tripod was a must.
The great thing is that I can carry everything in a small camera bag — I usually have the camera and tripod balanced on my shoulder as I walk around — and most of it is made out of plastic or carbon fiber materials, including the tripod. I’m using an old Schneider 90mm lens bought bought for under $200. The camera and lens together cost less than $400, but it works to perfection. The tripod, however, is another story. And the film…
Back in Atlantic City. A cool windy November day, I found myself among the Roman columns opposite the Dutch styled Knife and Fork restaurant. In the background, the black and white striped Atlantic Club casino, now closed along with the Trump Plaza, The Trump Taj Mahal, and the Revel further up the beach.
Standing where Atlantic, Pacific and Albany Avenues converge, the Knife & Fork was originally established in 1912 by then Atlantic City Mayor William Riddle, the Commodore Louis Kuehnle, and their cronies as an exclusive men’s drinking and dining club. The second floor was graced with curtained dining alcoves and a separate “ladies lounge” where women, who were not permitted at the bar, waited to be summoned. Private rooms on the third and fourth floors were used for gambling and, perhaps, other activities.
The Atlantic Club casino with its palatial arched windows and hotel tower hovers over a row of stucco apartment buildings, vestiges of an earlier time.
Some people say if they buy the Atlantic Club, they might bulldoze it because they don’t feel/think it’s worth it,” (Mayor) Guardian said. “Everyone wants to save the garage; some people want to save the tower that was built. While others said it just needs some TLC.
Nearby, Stockton University is building a new campus, which will bring young upwardly mobile people to the city, and the Hard Rock Cafe is taking over the Trump Taj Mahal. New market rate apartments are going up nearby. Meanwhile…
A New Jersey redevelopment agency has given preliminary approval to a $5.6 million payment to billionaire investor Carl Icahn to help pay for the demolition of part of Atlantic City’s former Trump Plaza casino.
For the moment, the former Trump Plaza tower commands the skyline above Boardwalk Hall.
I agree this project needs to come down,” said the mayor, who leaves office in January. “But why are they asking us for $5.6 million? You’re already responsible for the project closing and the loss of jobs and the suffering the city has gone through.
I did not win the Arcaid architecture photograph of the year competition. The winner was just announced in Berlin — Terrence Zhang — a Chinese photographer who, somehow, managed to have three images in the final 20.
Arcaid 2017 competition winner– photo by Terrence Zhang
I was curious to see whether the attendees at the World Architecture Festival would choose something purely architectural and/or compositional, or something with social/political content. They went with the former — a beautiful, atmospheric, classically symmetrical image.
Here is my submission.
All 20 of the shortlisted photographs will be exhibited in London and Beijing.
This picture popped up on my twitter feed just a little while ago. It’s the installation of the finalists for the Arcaid architecture photograph award at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin.
That’s my picture at the far right. Attendees of the festival vote for their favorite photograph, and the winner is announced at a gala dinner that closes the event.
The Arcaid architecture photography award gets a lot of media attention — showing the finalists — not just the winner, which will be chosen in November. Many of the websites that do features are architecturally oriented, but some general news sites take an interest as well. The Guardian did a really nice presentation the other day with comments from readers.
Someone said my photograph was only good because of the two shacks, which is true.
A lot of the discussion centered on whether these were photographs about architecture or photographs that utilize architecture for other purposes. My favorite comment was this one:
I’m pleased to announce that my photograph of the new, but empty, Revel casino in Atlantic City (above) has been shortlisted for the Arcaid architecture photograph of the year award. Twenty photographs were selected, and will be exhibited in Berlin, London, and Beijing. The winner will be chosen at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin in November.
In a contest like this you want an iconic image with a strong composition, play of light, color arrangement — all the elements. And wow factor turned up to 11. I’m not really that kind of photographer. I work in series rather than individual images, though I expect each image to have a purpose and an internal logic.
As followers of this blog know, I’ve been working on an Atlantic City series with a fairly straightforward political intent. To frame Donald Trump as the scam artist we have known about for years, and to place him at the center of the destruction of Atlantic City, a quintessentially American story of greed and (literally) casino capitalism. The image that was selected does not show a Trump casino, and in fact, the fall of Atlantic City is a complex subject, but I think it works to tell the story about as well as any one photograph can.
American values and idealism, however, survive somewhere between the crumbling houses and the monolithic glass wall of the casino — the little American flag in the vacant lot flapping in the sea breeze.
As I set up the composition above with its various interlocking pieces, I noticed that the LED sign at right center, just under the royal crest of Trumplandia, the former Trump Plaza, changed ads every 30 seconds or so. I made several pictures — one with my digital pocket camera — posted a few weeks ago, and one with my 4×5 view camera. All off a sudden an ad for the Miss America Pageant flashed on the sign, and then was gone, before I could get a film holder into my camera. Perfect! I wanted that.
So I waited for the ads to cycle through again, and I waited and waited, but Miss America did not seem to be getting equal time. Finally, she popped up on the screen, a beaming blond wearing a golden crown, adjacent to a royal crest with the words Miss America 2018, Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Miss America pageant has been associated with Atlantic City for as long as I can remember — much longer than Donald Trump’s casino reign — and it remains one of the few vestiges of the past glory of this storied beach resort.
Miraculously, at that moment, a group of people carrying shopping bags acquired from the nearby outlet mall walked into the otherwise vacant pathway leading one’s eye to the smiling face of the beauty queen and the royal escutcheons of Miss America and Donald Trump.
On the boardwalk, a statue of Miss America holding a crown to be placed on the head of the next winner stands in front of Boardwalk Hall, the historic venue for the pageant. Miss America absconded to Las Vegas in 2006, but has since returned to her rightful realm. A steady stream of tourists photograph themselves beneath the statue’s proffered crown.
The pageant was first televised in 1954, the year I was born, and every Fall my family would gather around the TV set to watch. There were only three major networks in those days, guaranteeing an enormous audience for any event shown in prime time. It’s embarrassing to think about it now, but I remember carefully scrutinizing each contestant for beauty, talent, and poise, as the judges whittled it down to to the final group of worthies. Always of great importance was how well contestants answered questions picked at random, and it was great fun to laugh at the word salad that predictably spewed forth.
Donald Trump, despite his dominance in Atlantic City, never got his hands on Miss America, literally or figuratively — he was the owner of the Miss Universe and USA pageants for over a decade. Miss America would have been far too cerebral. When he took over Miss Universe pageant Trump said of one of the pageant executives, “They had a person that was extremely proud that a number of the women had become doctors, and I wasn’t interested.”
In the Miss America pageant just held in Atlantic City, Miss Texas was asked about Trump’s non committal response to the white supremacists who engaged in violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. She said, : “I think that the white supremacist issue — it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack, and I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier addressing the fact, and making sure that all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.”
Trump Plaza wall — © Brian Rose
I returned to Atlantic City to continue working on my project — Atlantic City: In the Wake of Destruction Left by Donald Trump. I intended to spend part of my time on the Boardwalk, which in mid-August is filled with people and activity. But I ended up mostly on Pacific and Arctic Avenues just to the west of the beach. Even at the height of the summer, the streets were strangely quiet.
The photograph above was taken in the area adjacent to an immense outlet mall and a large fishing and camping store — efforts by the city to generate tourism and commercial activity. The former Trump Plaza stands empty, a black and white shell, its parking structure denuded of the Trump logo, though its possible to just make out the letters to the left and right of Trump’s golden crest.
Next to Trump Plaza is Caesars, a casino still doing business on the Boardwalk, Atlantic City’s homage to the Roman Forum.
Just a block or two from Caesars and Trump Plaza — the white tower in the background — it’s a different world. Junkies and alcoholics mingle on the corners while beach goers drift toward the Boardwalk carrying umbrellas and towels. The arched wall at center is the site of the former Trump’s World’s Fair, another failed casino.
A vacant building and empty lot just behind the outlet malls on Christopher Columbus Boulevard. In the distance is the Sheraton Hotel, which primarily serves the Atlantic City convention center. A man approached from a shop just to the left of the pink structure and asked what I was doing. it turned out he was the owner of the place called The Fishmarket. I explained a little about my project, and asked him whether he thought Atlantic City was coming up or going down. He gave a thumbs up, and told me that business was good. I don’t know if I share his optimism, but I felt encouraged by his attitude, nevertheless.
Just in the next block, the neighborhood of Ducktown remains largely intact with densely packed blocks of row houses. On the corner is White House Subs, which was probably not Donald Trump’s inspiration to run for the presidency. It is, however, a wonderfully funky and happening sub shop, which was packed with a diverse melange of people at lunch time.
My family came along on this trip — I deposited them on the beach while I was shooting — and we had lunch at White House Subs.
Across from me in the booth a grinning Jimmy Fallon from 10 years ago looked me in the eye holding one of White House’s classic Italian subs. Yes!
Most of the pictures of Atlantic City and Trump’s abandoned casinos I’ve posted so far were made with a digital camera. But I am actually shooting 4×5 film with the digital camera primarily for backup and preview purposes. It’s hard to appreciate at 72 pixels per inch, but these are scanned at very high resolution and worked up meticulously in Photoshop. Trump’s buildings have never looked so good — in a manner of speaking.
It is not merely the materialism of the 1980’s that Donald Trump embodies, it is the impatience, the insistence on having everything right now, all of it, the willingness to settle for appearance over substance. This is why it is hard not to sense, for all Mr. Trump has been identified with New York, that he is more at home in Atlantic City, where surface glitter is really all there is.
— Paul Goldberger, New York Times
My Atlantic City mini-website here.
President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him. He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people, whether he is speaking to a room of three or an arena of 30,000. He has built great relationships throughout his life and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor . . . and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible.
— Hope Hicks, White House spokeswoman
We are barely two months into the Trump presidency and it’s been some scary ride. I have gotten a good start on my Atlantic City project, which highlights Trump’s bankrupt casinos as a jumping off point. I don’t know where things go from here — with my project, or with Trump’s reality TV show writ large. As the esteemed blogger Digby says, “He’s running the country like he ran the Taj Mahal.”
Most of my landscape projects have incorporated social/political issues, but this is by the most targeted, and the most connected to current events. So, in the interest of getting the work out into the world as soon as possible, I’ve taken the photographs I’ve run on my blog over the past few months and put them together in a mini-website. Please take a look — recommend to others. Resist!
By the time I get back to Atlantic City, these images of Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza will almost certainly be gone. Workmen were busy removing any signs of Trump’s involvement in Atlantic City when I was there less than two weeks ago. But the evidence will not be easily erased.
In 2015, the Trump Taj Mahal was fined $10 million for money laundering.
“Trump Taj Mahal received many warnings about its deficiencies,” said FinCEN Director Jennifer Shaky Calvery. “Like all casinos in this country, Trump Taj Mahal has a duty to help protect our financial system from being exploited by criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors. Far from meeting these expectation, poor compliance practices, over many years, left the casino and our financial system unacceptably exposed.”
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
United States Department of the Treasury
Press release — March 6, 2015
(Trump) Taj Mahal, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose
On January 24th this year, a northeaster swept up the coast eating away at the dunes erected along Atlantic City’s boardwalk. In front of the (Trump) Taj Mahal the waves nearly broke through the dune barrier leaving behind a sharp cliff of sand.
Maps provided by (Atlantic City Director of Planning) Elizabeth Terenik show why Atlantic City presents such a unique case study for what sea level rise can do to a city. The majority of Atlantic City’s casinos, four of which shuttered in 2014, along with the boardwalk, rest along the highest point of elevation, while the residential portion has a much lower elevation, putting the homes in harm’s way. Names like “Trump” and “Bally’s” dominate the skyline of a community that sees little of the industry’s profits. — National Geographic
Borgata and Harrah’s casinos, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose
Atlantic City has seen five of its 12 casinos close since 2014 (two were Trump casinos) amid ever-increasing competition from gambling halls in neighboring states. That has caused the city’s tax base to crumble. It also led the city’s remaining casinos to file hefty tax appeals, claiming their property assessments were too high thanks to the downturn. In turn, that blew large holes into the city’s budget over the last few years, helping bring the city to the brink of bankruptcy.
So, in a nutshell, the Borgata, the most successful of all the casinos, bankrupted Atlantic City. It should be obvious at this point that the casinos were never really about the revitalization of the city. Atlantic City’s unemployment rate remains extremely high, and city services have declined. The casinos were, and are, about the transfer of billions of dollars into the pockets of people like Donald Trump, aided by politicians like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. And there is ample evidence that much of Trump’s money came from nefarious Russian sources to whom he remains indebted and obligated in unknown and potentially dangerous ways.
Donald Trump came to Atlantic City promising glamor and untold riches. He left it in ruins — though there is still plenty of gold all over the city — like in the Gold Mine directly behind the empty and now de-Trumped Taj Mahal.
Initially, most of the casinos were built on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Since most gamblers were not interested in the raucous entertainments of the boardwalk, nor were they likely to be found sunning themselves on the beach, several casinos were built on the other side of Absecon Island in a marshy area well away from the crime-ridden streets of the city. Trump Castle was the first to locate in that area.
Like a rat abandoning a sinking ship, Trump pulled out his interests in Atlantic City little by little. In 2011, the Trump Marina (formerly Trump Castle) was sold for about a tenth of what it was originally worth, and now operates steadily under new management as the Golden Nugget.
Now he was looking for work as a livery driver. Brown also used to work in the casinos, at the Showboat, bussing tables, and at Trump’s Castle, stripping and waxing floors. “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor,” he said. “It was the eighties, I was a teen-ager, but I remember it: they put us all in the back.”
— The New Yorker