Book review by Andrea Karen Hammer
For anyone who treasures the print editions of photography books, the experience of unwrapping Atlantic City by photographer Brian Rose involves sensations similar to opening an intriguing gift.
Pulling off the protective cellophane wrapper to discover a deep blue textured cover is the beginning of this intensely visual and tactile exploration. From the striking cover design to the gold interior page spread, every element of this high-quality book, supported through Kickstarter and published by Circa Press in London, signals careful attention to details. Some of these include the thoughtful selection of fonts and strategic placement of quotes on glossy pages, serving as eye-catching frames with generous white space.
Photographer Brian Rose‘s striking images, largely focusing on dilapidated buildings in decayed areas of Atlantic City, achieve an artist’s ultimate purpose: stirring visceral reactions. Some of the standouts, which prompt pausing during the turning of pages, grab attention but contain troubling elements on further scrutiny.
For example, a photo of a smiling woman taking a selfie in front of a gold Miss America statue and near a smartphone-distracted couple, is set in front of outdoor toilets. Another shot of an ornate elephant sculpture is accompanied by a quote indicating that the artist never received payment for his work. Tweets on several pages and other strong political commentary present a specific viewpoint of a city that undeniably has seen better days.
Atlantic City Photos Prompt Larger Questions for Artists, Photographers, Journalists and Individuals
For those of us with an openly confessed attachment to the shore and cameras that naturally gravitate to the ocean, seagulls, bike riders and families enjoying “Simple Pleasures by the Ocean,” the images in Atlantic City give rise to several larger questions:
- As artists and individuals, what do we choose to see and focus on in our lives and work?
- As photographers and journalists, is it important–or even possible–to present a balanced view of any landscape?
- For cities in distress, what are the most productive ways of tackling the issues and commenting on the problems?
The photographs and text in Atlantic City succeed in stirring strong reactions, particularly about the observation that hope does not exist for Atlantic City. From the vibrant Orange Loop businesses on Tennessee Avenue to the Atlantic City Arts Foundation projects, the energy of emerging enterprises and splashes of color on boardwalk Adirondack chairs as well as exhibits in vacant spaces are tangible evidence of steps toward renewal.
Atlantic City by photographer Brian Rose, without a doubt, captures the demise in some pockets of a once glorious shore town. However, this new photography book strengthens the motivation of those with an indestructible love of this city to search for and support Atlantic City’s renaissance. Following in the footsteps of Philadelphia’s Midtown Village, which many once considered impossible, the question remains: How can we help Atlantic City–and others facing similar challenges–to thrive through unified efforts again?
Additional Questions to Consider: Post Your Comments Now!
How did you react to the photos and text in Atlantic City, which Circa Press in London published? Can you share other images and perceptions revealing a different viewpoint or capturing the people committed to rebuilding this town? Do you think that this city and others with economic problems can rebound, and why or why not?
What specific role can the arts play in these and other revitalization efforts? Post your comments, and invite others to join this brainstorming session, which this new photography book inspired!