Brian Rose’s Atlantic City connects what Trump did in that city as a businessman to what he’s doing to the US as president.
Chief among those to exploit the short-term gains [offered by Atlantic City] was Donald Trump,1 whose multiple casinos succeeded only in fleecing working and middle-class gamblers, whose money bypassed the local economy on its way to his bank accounts. He then absconded for good with his proverbial sacks of cash, telling Atlantic City in no uncertain terms, “Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200.”
- 1. But more than a portrait of a city in decline, Atlantic City is a prognostication of America with President Trump its helm. The text accompanying the photographs, largely written by or about Trump, illustrate his philosophy of extortion and rupture that pays no regard to those who are ransacked, ruined, halved, or quartered. Quoted in Politico, one Atlantic City jitney driver perhaps most eloquently summarizes Trump’s self-professed business acumen when speaking of him and his occasional crony, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: “They both knew how to squeeze a buck and leave us for dead.”
Page after page of Rose’s book features the banal exteriors of windowless casinos, designed to prevent its inhabitants from noticing the passage of time. They have more in common with prisons than the pleasure palaces they purport to be. Rose’s photographs are imbued with an overwhelming sense of erosion, of the city’s denudation alongside its best-laid plans and ill-gotten gains. The reality of global warming, often ignored by now-President Trump and his ilk, make this eventuality more imminent, unavoidable, and terrifying. Many of the casinos were built right along the water’s edge.
Mostly taken on wintry afternoons, the pale light of Atlantic City’s photographs suggests a pervasive melancholy blanketing the concrete landscape, lacking even the artificial flash of neon to brighten its torpor. Rose strips away the last peels of paint from an already thin facade of glitz and glamour. Humans are rarely seen,