The Story Behind Iconic Atlantic City Photo Not Seen In 44 Years
This iconic photo had only been published exactly one time, on May 27, 1978. It has not been seen since, until now.
The photo was taken by Gregg Kohl, who is one of the most respected and talented photographers in Atlantic City history.
Never reported until now, Kohl came excruciatingly close to missing this great photo shot.
It depicts then Resorts International Hotel and Casino Atlantic City on its opening day exactly 44 years ago. The Kohl photo was snapped at exactly 10:00 a.m., when casino gambling officially became legal in Atlantic City.
The photo appeared on the front page of The Atlantic City Press and it also has the distinction of being the first color photo ever published in The Atlantic City Press.
The famous actor/singer Steve Lawrence is seen throwing a pair of dice at a craps table, surrounded by then New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne, New Jersey Senator Steve Perskie … who is the author of The New Jersey Casino Control Act and many other dignitaries of the day.
If you missed it, here’s a link to a great companion piece about how much of a game changer Resorts Casino Hotel Atlantic City was 44 years ago.
These are the highlights … what now follows is the never before told story of how this photograph came to be. The facts that we will share come directly from the photographer himself, Gregg Kohl.
“Planning how to cover the Grand Opening of Resorts started weeks before the event. It was decided that The Press would run the opening day with color photos. That had never been done before in the Atlantic City Press. I had to do some research on how to process color slide film in our Press darkroom without any specialized machinery. It was done by hand. And a little praying,” said Kohl.
The photograph is just spectacular. It captures a significant moment in history in split-second fashion. The black and white photo that you may have seen over the past 44 years doesn’t compare to the beauty of this color version and the angle and depth because Kohl was able to shoot it from above.
This was decades before smartphones could take high resolution photographs. This photo required thought and planning to achieve.
In 1978, to take a great photo required a lot of hard work and planning.
“I did my research and came up with a plan that would have me shoot the photo for the front page and any other secondary photos,” said Kohl.
“There were other photographers with the team, Mike Blizzard and Stan Pontiere. Mike Blizzard was not a staff member of The Atlantic City Press, but was a contracted photographer that was doing some of the day-to-day assignments,” said Kohl.
“Stan and I were the two staff members that were there and I think we may have called in Tom Kinnemand from the Cape May Bureau to help. Tom was also a staff photographer,” said Kohl.
The technical aspects of this “color shoot” were intricate and iffy in nature.
Kohl described his complex task like this:
“I was able to purchase some color slide film and Kodak made a color slide film processing kit you could do at home to develop the color slides.”
“The Press was very liberal on practice runs and we all felt it was a go. The most difficult part was that I needed a water temperature of 105 to 107 degree water for about 40 minutes. That was the big if. The paper on the day of the event made sure no one was using any hot water at the plant on Devins Lane in Pleasantville,” said Kohl.
The plan was for Kohl to shoot the page one image and any other photos he could get. Kohl also faced time constraints because he had to get right back to Pleasantville to process the slides.
This involved Kohl getting to Resorts early enough to get a parking space right near the hotel, on the beach block of North Carolina Avenue.
When the day finally came, Kohl was understandably nervous. “I really didn't have a formal plan … all I knew was that I HAD to get that page one photo that looked different and told the story in one look,” said Kohl.
When Kohl arrived at the craps table for the grand opening photo, the news media had already arrived and has taken all of the best photo spots.
Kohl was on his own. There were no public relations staff members to help save him. As the home town, local newspaper, The Atlantic City Press typically received preferential treatment and placement.
Not on this day, as Kohl arrived just a little bit late and no one was about to give up there prime spot.
“As I looked around I did see a familiar face. Sid Stoen had a 10 foot aluminum ladder set up just behind the first row of photographers and news cameras,” said Kohl.
Sid Stoen was a local photographer from Margate, and a mentor of Kohl’s.
“Sid taught me how to take photos with a 4x5 view camera and develop and print photos from conventions in a hotel room, turned darkroom,” said Kohl.
“Sid understood my dilemma and offered me his position on his ladder. He insisted. No one else was able to get the view I had. Sid gave up his shot for me,” said Kohl.
“Without Sid, I would have not been able to get that image,” said Kohl.
Kohl being able to shoot this from above made all the difference and makes his photo incomparable to all others.
Kohl credits Sid Stoen with teaching him about the photography world and business.
“I will never forget Sid. His generosity allowed me to shine with the readers of the paper and my superiors, Bob Ebner, Managing Editor and Chuck Reynolds, Publisher of The Atlantic City Press,” said Kohl.
“So once the slides were developed. A driver from ABARTA, The Press conglomerate of newspapers back then, came down from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to pick up the color slides and took them back to a sister newspaper in the ABARTA chain and printed the next day's paper from up there and they had tractor trailers full of newspapers driven down to the Pleasantville office for delivery the next morning,” said Kohl.
”When I did this I had only worked at The Press for 4 years. I wasn't green at that time … it was the biggest story I ever covered. Scary, yes. I don't know where I'd be today without that being in my portfolio. It sure gave me a path to being a better planner and photographer,” said Kohl.
A friend taught me an expression just yesterday that I had never heard before. It goes like this … “Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”
Kohl went on to work at The Press of Atlantic City for 22 years, before forming his own photography company.
Kohl works for work for 60 contractors in four states and also continues to do some local casino work.
Amazing his high profile work includes: Kohl recording 15 years of rebuilding of the Freedom Tower in Manhattan, which he describes as “a profound experience.”
Now you know the rest of this story. A never before told story until now.
SOURCE: Gregg Kohl.
NOTE: I worked with Gregg Kohl at The Atlantic City Press from 1978-1980.
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