Category Archives: Politics

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/Lower East Side


The Bowery and East 1st Street, 2010 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Republicans in Congress rushed the bill through for other reasons: to combat the fact of their own legislative incompetence, to satisfy their donors and to honor their long-held belief that the rich are America’s true governing force.

The middle class and the poor were never at the heart of this heartless bill. They are simply a veneer behind which a crime is occurring: the great American tax heist.

Charles Blow, The New York Times

New York/Washington, D.C.


The Lincoln Memorial (4×5 film) 1982 — © Brian Rose

There have been more perilous moments in American history — the Civil War, certainly — but few. The coming days will shake the pillars of this great democratic experiment. Be strong. Be prepared for anything.

New York/Washington, D.C.


Grant Memorial, Washington, D.C. (4×5 film) 1982 — © Brian Rose

From a small group of photographs I made in Washington, D.C. in the early 1980s. The Grant Memorial, by sculptor Henry Shrady, stands directly in front of the Capitol, an equestrian statue with dramatic depictions of battle on either side. In my photograph, the cavalry charge is shown silhouetted against the early evening sky.

Trump himself told us plainly on Friday night in Pensacola, Fla., that he will do whatever it takes to hold power, and he should be taken seriously. “There are powerful forces in Washington trying to sabotage our movement,” he declared. “These are bad people, these are very, very bad and evil people. . . . But you know what, we’re stopping them. You’re seeing that right now.”

We are far closer to the edge than we want to think.

E.J. Dionne, The Washington Post

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/Trump Soho


Trump Soho Hotel seen from Hudson Street (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

From the start the Trump Soho Hotel was an illegal operation, a money laundering scheme for Russian money. The Trump organization skirted zoning regulations, but the city of New York did not enforce the rules. Ivanka and Donald, Jr. lied about sales figures, but the attorney general did not prosecute. They got away with it for almost ten years.

But eventually, the Trump name became a liability — even out of town sports teams refused to stay there. The apartments did not sell. The rich and famous had other less problematic options. Now, the Trumps are cutting their losses and cutting loose the property.

From the New York Times:

Before it broke ground, protesters took to the streets, chanting “Dump the Trump” and complaining that the skyscraper would break zoning rules. Then, in 2008, a worker fell 42 stories to his death during a construction accident.

In November 2011, the Trumps and other defendants paid 90 percent of $3.16 million in deposits to settle claims from buyers of condominium units that Mr. Trump, his children and others had inflated sales figures in what turned out to be a struggling project. The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., was pursuing a criminal investigation into the same issue, The New York Times reported last year. Some prosecutors felt they had enough evidence to build a case, but Mr. Vance declined to pursue charges, several news organizations reported last month.

At the same time, a separate lawsuit alleged that the project was backed by felons and financing from Russia. Felix Sater, a Russian deal maker, felon and F.B.I. informant, had helped facilitate the deal, the lawsuit said.

New York/Berlin

Ebertstrasse, Berlin, 1989 — © Brian Rose

28 years ago today, the Berlin wall opened. It was a moment of joyous celebration, a triumph of the human spirit, and an eternal symbol of freedom against repression.

28 years later, we are in a much darker place as the shadow of authoritarianism stalks once again in the United States and abroad.

But let us not doubt, on this day, that an aroused public will not permit the walls of hatred and tyranny to stand. And those who desecrate our ideals, and seek to tear apart the bonds that unite us, will be vanquished.

“A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”  — The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

New York/Prospect Park


Abraham Lincoln, Prospect Park, New York (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

A statue of Abraham Lincoln, dedicated in 1969, stands in Prospect Park. Lincoln is depicted holding the Emancipation Proclamation, the executive order that effectively freed the slaves in 1862 at the height of the Civil War. Lincoln said at the signing:

“I never in my life felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper…if my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it.”

A few days ago, John Kelly, chief of staff for President Donald Trump, made remarks that essentially denied that slavery was the central focus of the Civil War, and insulted the legacy of Lincoln. He said: “…the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

In 1860, speaking in the Great Hall of Cooper Union, Lincoln addressed, specifically, the issue of false equivalence — and the moral necessity of recognizing right from wrong.

Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored – contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man…

It is not necessary to demonize those who fought on the side of the south — my great, great grandfather died on the battlefield at Vicksburg — believing, I presume, that he fought for a just cause. But it is time to acknowledge that veneration should be reserved for those who fought against slavery, not for it. 

New York/Four Freedoms Park


Four Freedoms Park, Roosevelt Island — © Brian Rose

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
January 6, 1941


Four Freedoms Park, Roosevelt Island — © Brian Rose

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/Brooklyn


Abraham Lincoln, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, New York — © Brian Rose

The principles of JEFFERSON are the definitions and axioms of free society. And yet they are denied and evaded, with no small show of success. One dashingly calls them “glittering generalities.” Another bluntly styles them “self-evident lies.” And others insidiously argue that they apply only to “superior races.”

These expressions, differing in form, are identical in object and effect — the supplanting the principles of free Government, and restoring those of classification, caste and legitimacy. They would delight a convocation of crowned heads plotting against the people. They are the vanguard, the sappers and miners of returning despotism. We must repulse them, or they will subjugate us.

Abraham Lincoln
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Thursday, April 6,1859

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.

New York/Atlantic City


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

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