Among a mesmerising stack of new crisp new publications from Berlin-based publishing house Kehrer, is Jay Wolke’s Same Dream Another Time. It’s a nostalgia-soaked tome which takes a look back at three American gambling centres during the late 80s and early 90s: Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada, and Atlantic City, New Jersey – not through rose-tinted glasses but rather directly, with an unerring, and often humorous realism.
Despite the 30 years which separates us from Same Dream’s subjects, Jay’s many and varied characters are as colourful today as they must have been back in 80s America. Naive visions of aspiration are found in the gambling world’s insiders and outsiders: hopeful metal detectorists, fruit machine cowboys, a blonde glamazon signing autographs for a waiting child, a miserable white man sinking into the plush velvet interiors of a limo, a sense which binds the collection of images together in a way which is charming and accessible rather than grotesque.
“Given the three cities Wolke was shooting in, we may be surprised to discover not a whiff of the salacious in any of these photographs,” James McManus notes. “He is more interested in the chintzy seductions, unlikely architectural pairings, and – most of all – the ordinary people working in and around the casinos: construction workers, limo drivers, bartenders, prostitutes, croupiers, cops, blackjack dealers. An accelerating influx of gamblers, together with the hundreds of thousands of workers needed to build and staff all the new hotels and casinos, had made Las Vegas the fastest growing city in America. On the other side of the continent, Atlantic City was trying to follow suit, trading its quaint seaside image, familiar from postcards and Monopoly boards, for modern gaming and convention complexes, displacing thousands of working-class residents in the process.”
More than a photographer, Chicago-based Jay Wolke is an artist and educator, whose work sits in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA and the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Financial Times Magazine, Geo France, Exposure, Newsweek, Fortune, and The Village Voice.
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