Category Archives: Atlantic City

New York/London


Sto Werkstatt, London

At the opening of the exhibition Building Images at Sto Werkstatt in London, which features the 20 shortlisted photographs for the Architectural Photography Awards. My wife, Renee Schoonbeek on the right.


Sto Werkstatt, London

My photograph of Atlantic City.

New York/London

My photograph (above) from my Atlantic City project was shortlisted for Architecture Photograph of the Year 2017 and will be exhibited In London — opening this Thursday. I will be present at the opening Thursday evening, and will be in London through Sunday, if anyone is interested in a meet up. I haven’t been to London in quite a while — should be fun.

New York/Atlantic City


Book Cover Proposal

I’ve been working on a book dummy of my Atlantic City photographs. This a closeup of the former Trump Plaza casino hotel, and the crest once had a Trump logo in the center oval. Imagine the lettering ATLANTIC CITY stamped in gold foil.

Here’s what the interior pages look like:

The book includes approximately 50 photographs with text on the left and images on the right. The text pieces are a combination of personal observations, quotes from various newspapers and online media, and screenshots of Donald Trump’s tweets about Atlantic City. Fifteen tweets to be exact.

They’re great. What can I say.

Yes, sad for all the haters and losers. And for the United States of America now that Donald Trump has dumped Atlantic City and taken his carney show on the road..

This is a book that needs to get published — I just don’t know if anyone will take it on. I certainly don’t have Trump’s savvy for flim-flammery. But I do have a book that is urgent, poignant, and, in my opinion, important.

New York/Atlantic City


Caesar’s garage, Atlantic City (4×5 negative) — © Brian Rose

Difference in scale — almost a photographic genre in itself — is stupefyingly on display in Atlantic City. And every city planning truism about livable streets has been blown to smithereens. Learning from Las Vegas, AC gets a PhD in architecture.

I am torn between celebrating the wanton caziness of it all and seeking the smug moral high ground on this low lying spit of sand. Atlantic City seems to be imploding at the same time as it is once again being resurrected. The story goes on — the gamblers play on in windowless rooms — while the waves crash closer and closer to the boardwalk.

New York/Atlantic City


Harrah’s casino, Atlantic City, (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Atlantic City was built on a barrier island (Absecon Island), and for most of its history, was oriented to the boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean — a grid of streets with names anyone who has played Monopoly knows well. The backside of the island was mostly low lying wetlands.

The first casinos were built along the boardwalk, though few gamblers were interested in getting their feet wet in the surf, or navigating the crime-ridden streets of the city. And these being self-contained realms, access to highways was more important, and several casinos were built in the Marina district along Absecon Inlet at a safe remove from the city proper.

At one time, Donald Trump owned four casinos including the Trump Marina, which was sold at a fire sale price a few years ago. It’s now the Golden Nugget — the parking structure to the left in the photo above.

From NJ.com:

Swatches of colorful new carpeting were laid down in hotel hallways to show what will eventually replace the more drab patterns consisting of tens of thousands of interlocking letter “T”s, beneath the “Trump” name on each room door.

“We have been working on removing everything that says ‘Trump,’ but it’s overwhelming,” said Amy Chasey, a Golden Nugget spokeswoman.

New York/Atlantic City


Miss America with crown, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

The Miss America pageant was a big deal in the 1960s when I was growing up in Williamsburg, Virginia. Every year the family gathered around the TV set as we assiduously scrutinized the contestants, 18 or 19 year old women dolled up to be ageless icons of poise and beauty. Talented, too. Among other things, able to effortlessly traverse the stage in sky high heels.

The pageant has experienced many controversies, and gone through a lot of changes over the years. Certainly, its centrality in American culture has faded. It left Atlantic City for Las Vegas, and then returned again to this struggling remnant of a seaside resort. A relic, perhaps, of those simpler times that never were.

Now, we are witnessing yet another Miss America spectacle — it turns out the leaders of the organization are a bunch of sexist louts. Quelle surprise! A bevy of former beauty queens has called for resignations.The CEO was just suspended.

Jennifer Weiner writes in the New York Times: “It might not be enough. Nothing might be able to remove the stain of so much hateful, crude, sexist talk. It might be that we’ve seen our last weeping, rhinestone-crowned Miss A. making her way down the Atlantic City walkway.”

Meanwhile, our crude lecher-in-chief, whose sham embrace of Atlantic City left it defiled and desolated, remains standing. “Make America great again.”

 

New York/Atlantic City


N. Congress Avenue, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

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

New York/Atlantic City


Atlantic City — © Brian Rose


Atlantic City — © Brian Rose


Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

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…

New York/Atlantic City


Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

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.


South Wilson Avenue, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

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.


The Atlantic Club casino, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

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.


Pacific Avenue, Atlantic City (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

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.

New York/Arcaid Competition

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.


North wall of the Revel casino, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

All 20 of the shortlisted photographs will be exhibited in London and Beijing.

New York/Berlin


Arcaid shortlisted photos, World Architecture Festival, Berlin

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.

New York/The Guardian

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:

New York/Arcaid Shortlist


Atlantic City, Revel casino north wall (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

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.

Here are the images.

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.

See my other Atlantic City images here.

New York/Atlantic City


Atlantic City (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

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.


Miss America statue, Atlantic City (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

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.


Atlantic City (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

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.”

 

 

New York/Atlantic City


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.


Caesars Casino Hotel — © Brian Rose

Next to Trump Plaza is Caesars, a casino still doing business on the Boardwalk, Atlantic City’s homage to the Roman Forum.


Pacific Avenue — © Brian Rose

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.


Arctic Avenue — © Brian Rose

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.


White House, Arctic Avenue — © Brian Rose

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.


White House (Brendan and Renee) — © Brian Rose

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.


White House (with Jimmy Fallon) — © Brian Rose

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!

New York/Atlantic City


Trump Plaza (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

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.


Trump Plaza (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

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.