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From Ruins to Riches: Photographing the Contrast of Abandoned Buildings and Casinos

On a morning, I found myself facing the weathered front of an old factory, from the communist era. The broken windows, rusty machines and walls covered in graffiti spoke of days long gone. Once very alive, now completely silent. Almost saddened by its destiny and with my camera ready, I sought to capture the haunting beauty of decay. Then, sometime later, I was in a casino, surrounded by lights. The contrast was stark. Shimmering chandeliers, the buzzing sounds of slot machines people immersed in a world of luck and chance. It teemed with life and vitality. And there it was – the idea to create a project that highlights the contrast of abandoned buildings and casinos.

Casinos are worlds of their own. Contrary to something like the Casino Days login page, where all the info is transparent and logically laid out before you, land-based casinos want you to read them. They are like a mysterious lady. Her makeup is bright neon lights, extravagant decorations and the ending symphony of slot machines that create an experience meant to captivate you. But beneath it all is a mysterious personality waiting to be discovered. And that requires some effort.

Capturing the essence of casinos, in photographs, is quite a task. It’s not about capturing the extravagant side but also, about exploring the deeper emotions of despair. Each photo captures the suspense that lingers in the atmosphere with the belief that one spin or hand could completely change someone’s destiny. I still remember my photography session at a casino vividly. From its entrance to its opulent interior adorned with dazzling chandeliers, lavish carpets and a vibrant palette exuding opulence. Yet beneath this facade of luxury lies a contrast. The exhaustion seen on the faces of players, the drama unfolding at high stakes tables where fortunes teeter on a knifes edge. I remember observing a woman engrossed in feeding coins into a slot machine. Her gaze distant yet filled with a hope. These fleeting moments capture not scenes but narratives waiting to be told.

Traveling to Different Locations

The project took me to different cities. Funny enough, places with high-end casinos also have a lot of derelict buildings. Detroit, with its iconic abandoned factories, remnants of its industrial past. Las Vegas, the epitome of casino culture, where every building screams opulence. Atlantic City, a mix of both, with its decaying boardwalks and grand casinos. In Detroit, the Packard Plant stood out. Once a symbol of American automotive prowess, now a vast expanse of ruins. It’s been abandoned for decades, a playground for urban explorers. Photographing it was surreal. The vastness, the decay, the graffiti, and each photo seemed to capture a piece of its soul.

Las Vegas was the opposite. The Bellagio, with its dancing fountains and marble floors. The Venetian, with its indoor canals and gondola rides. Yet, behind the glamour, there’s a sense of desperation. People chasing dreams. Capturing this dichotomy was essential. The glittering exterior and the grim reality behind it. Atlantic City offered a mix. The Boardwalk Empire, once thriving, now struggling. Abandoned hotels standing next to bustling casinos. It’s a city caught between decay and renewal. The photos here were the most poignant. A rusting Ferris wheel overlooking a bright, bustling casino floor. It felt like a visual metaphor for the clash between past and present.

It Was Intense and Emotional

Throughout the project, the emotional rollercoaster was intense. The sadness of seeing forgotten places, the excitement of capturing the glitz of casinos. But also, the realization that both places, in their own way, tell stories of human ambition and failure. A similar story, told in a different way. Abandoned buildings show the aftermath of dreams unfulfilled. Casinos show the perpetual cycle of hope and loss. Editing the photos was another journey. There’s always something very intimate about the process, especially if you’re developing from film. It’s an intimate, almost ritual like experience for me. You begin with the negatives, where abandoned buildings and casinos don’t look very different from each other. I revisit every moment with each frame. Rinse the chemicals and relive the moment. A photograph is in my hands, tangible and real. The process is tactile, and the final product is a physical experience, just like stepping through the casino door, or touching the crumbling façade of an old building.

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