When Trump won the election, photographer Brian Rose made straight for the gambling town – to show the reality behind his billionaire boasts.
The broken city he captured speaks volumes about today’s America
When Trump was elected in 2016, Rose knew instantly that he had to go to Atlantic City: “Trump is the ultimate portrayal of this successful American billionaire. People get taken in, but the failure of Atlantic City shows the reality behind the boasts.”
The resulting book, Atlantic City, contains a foreword by Pulitzer prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger. “Bleakness,” he says, “forms the constant theme of these images, a sense of emptiness and an utter lack of urbanity.” The book is full of dystopian imagery, with Trump’s failed casinos looking as if they could be part of a Blade Runner movie. But Rose insists this work goes beyond the “aesthetic of an abandoned amusement park”, believing it says just as much about America in 2019. He believes there are Atlantic Citys all across the country.
“Tourists,” he says, “go to Atlantic City, go straight into their hotel and the casino, and then they don’t leave, which means the town outside is very isolated and dangerous, with the casinos cannibalising all the local businesses. Drug use and crime is so high, and this is something we see in other American cities, too, like Baltimore and Cleveland, where a commercial centre dwarfs the rest of the society.”
Rose recalls seeing one highly unexpected sight in Atlantic City: “When I was taking photos of the casinos, I saw two women in Maga hats. They live in a place that Trump helped ruin, yet still believe in him. I found that extraordinary.”
It would be unfair, however, to put the blame solely on the 45th president of the United States.