The magazine of the photo-essay
“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine. Fabulous!”
Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film maker
by Jay Wolke
When I made these photographs in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Las Vegas and Atlantic City were the centers for
legal gambling in the United States. Devoted to games, spectacles, and temporary diversions of all kinds and
representing the ultimate immoderacies of American consumerism, these cities were designed to be architectural
seductions, tapping the collective thirst for risk and reward. Still under the influence of underworld kingpins, Las Vegas
was fueling the needs of dream-seekers while utilizing a huge infrastructure of resources and hundreds of thousands
of workers. It was the fastest growing city in the country. Atlantic City was trading its worn out, seaside image for
modern gambling and convention complexes, displacing thousands of local residents in the process and hoping to
turn around the fortunes of the city and the state.
Especially appealing to me were the peripheral associations, which enriched an already complex, social, and physical
structure—i.e., celebrities, prizefights, prostitution, beauty pageants, weddings, and so on. As a photographer, I was
fascinated with the accentuated layers and intersections of people, artifice, architecture, and landscape. I was
searching for circumstances charged with expectation and aspiration, stirred by fantasy so that, through my photographs,
I might then strip away those expectations, exposing the symbols of desire alongside the realities of pretense and
uncertainty. In doing so I was hoping to construct images of visual and psychological tension, mirroring the complex
processes that contrast imagination and reality.
This volume is both a time capsule and an index of the contemporary, addressing themes that are every bit as acute
today as they were when I made the images decades ago. Revisiting my archive of negatives now has necessarily
suggested a different appreciation of the photographs; many, originally ignored or rejected have found their way back
into the body of the project, and now command a new edit.
This process of reconsideration and reflection has been extremely rewarding on many levels. Both hindsight and
experience have given me fresh angles from which to view this work and to finally reveal the story that I’d always hoped
Man In Trench coat, Atlantic City, 1989.
Autograph, Contestant, Mother Daughter, Miss America Pageant, Atlantic City, 1989.
Corvette, Woman, Casino, Reno, 1991.
Dealers on Break, Las Vegas, 1988.
Desert Man, Red Couch, Las Vegas, 1988.
Girl in Car, Trump Plaza, Atlantic City, 1989.
Guaranteed Winner, Las Vegas, 1987.
Man, Velour Limo, Las Vegas, 1988.
Marvin Hagler Banner, Marquee, Ceasar's Palace, Las Vegas, 1988.
Miss America On Float, Atlantic City, 1989.
Motel, Hill, Henderson, 1988.
Nintey Four Year Old Lawyer, Reno, 1991.
Shirtless Man, Atlantic City, 1989.
Sportscastors before Hagler, Leonard Prizefight, Ceasar’s Palace Pool, Las Vegas, 1987.
USA Today, Moai, Las Vegas, 1987.
Worker with Pick, Las Vegas, 1987.
Workers Changing Sign, Las Vegas Blvd, 1987.