One photographer's investigation of Atlantic City shows how far the city is today from the romance of the classic board game.
Headlines from Atlantic City today read like they might be pulled from Monopoly, the most famous board game ever made about Atlantic City, or any other city. "Atlantic City Allowed to Collect Up to $30 Million Unpaid Revel Property Taxes," reads one from The Wall Street Journal Thursday. It's a bank judgment in the city's favor, practically a card drawn at random from the Chance deck. "Economist: Atlantic County Job Losses Among Worst in Nation," reads another story, about how the city is suffering the worst single-year contractions in employment in recent national history. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.
Cities and states that previously shunned gambling are now embracing casinos. The most recent example is Massachusetts, which awarded the state's first two casino-resort licenses after voters backed commercial gambling on Election Day. At the same time, the capital of East Coast gambling has seen its star plummet. Following the closure of four casinos in Atlantic City this year, commercial tenants who share the Boardwalk with them fear that the loss of jobs, hotel inventory, and tourist appeal could spell bust.
In "Monopoly," photographer Mike Osborne captures the drift from the Atlantic City romanticized by Monopoly and the Atlantic City of today. In this series of photos, the artist depicts the streets made famous by the board game—from low-rent Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues to the world-famous Boardwalk.
As Osborne explains to The New York Times's Lens blog, he focuses on views of or from the streets themselves. Pennsylvania Avenue and States Avenue don't look so different through Osborne's camera, despite the fact that they're on opposite sides of the board in Monopoly. Perhaps that is partly the result of Atlantic City's loss of the monopoly over gambling.
Osborne's photos echo one of my favorite series in all photography: Alec Soth's Niagara, a profound look at the economic and social realities surrounding the Niagara Falls, a major tourist destination as well as symbol for fleeting love and natural majesty.
The photos are on view at the Holly Johnson Gallery in Dallas. While the question still stands as to whether Atlantic City will suffer the same fate as Detroit, its meaning as a city and a symbol is changing.
All photos courtesy the artist.