Macao: City of Dreams - PhMuseum

Macao: City of Dreams

Adam Lampton

2006 - Ongoing

Macao; China

For 10 months while on a William J. Fulbright grant, I photographed the former Portuguese colony of Macao (now a Special Administrative Region of China) and witnessed a key moment in its transformation from a small enclave into a gambling Mecca. I returned in 2015 and ’19 to continue the project and to see what had changed in the intervening years.

Soon after the handover from Portuguese control to the People’s Republic of China in 1999, Macao’s casino industry which, until then was monopolized by Hong Kong businessman Stanley Ho, was opened to foreign investment. Since then, Macao has been busily trying to place itself as the gaming and leisure destination for, not just China, but all of Asia. As of 2007 Macao had usurped the Las Vegas Strip as the most valuable piece of gambling real estate in the world. By 2013 Macao outpaced Las Vegas by about seven times. Since then Macao has struggled to maintain this level of growth and even seen a substantial decline in revenue largely due to Chinese government restrictions on travel and a crackdown on Mainland corruption. I was curious if these recent declines in fortune were evident from the street level.

While these economic factors are literally written into the landscape of the territory, the idiosyncratic nature of a place where multiple histories intersect remains. Despite the tendency of huge commercial spaces spaces such as hotels and casinos to obliterate unique local culture in favor of bland international consumer culture, Macao remains a location that is hard to define as any one ‘kind’ of place.

Beyond presenting Macao as a site of physical, cultural and political change, these pictures attempt to navigate a territory of conflicting perceptions inherent in the movement from historical city to phantasmagorical dreamscape. In doing so, they present Macao as existing somewhere between a reflection of an internal architecture and that of a physical reality.

*All work in this series is shot on 4×5” film and printed as 30×40” archival inkjet prints in editions of 5

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  • Casino New Century, Macao (Img#: 15) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2007/18)

  • Apartment Buildings, Taipa, Macao (Img#: 12) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2019)

  • St. Mark's Square, The Venetian, Macao (Img#: 10) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2015/18)

  • Palm Tree and Poster, Macao (Img#: 14) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2015/18)

  • Rosita, Croupier, Macao (Img#: 8) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2007/18)

  • Boy with a Toy Gun, Macao (Img#: 16) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2007/18)

  • Teenagers on their Grandmother's Grave, Macao (Img#: 19) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2007/18)

  • Darling Massage and Sauna, Macao (Img#: 18) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2007/18)

  • 'Prince', Bellboy, 'The 13' Hotel, Macao (Img#: 1) (Size: 28x32")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2019)

    Portrait of Filipino bellboy named "Prince" in the lobby of the world's most expensive (self-declared) hotel 'The 13'.

  • Ancient Tree, Dung Huan Village, Hengqing, Macao (Img#: 13) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2007/18)

  • The Venetian Lion, Macao (Img#: 3)
    Archival Inkjet Print (2007/19)

  • Acrobat Aaron Randles, Macao (Img#: 7) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2015/18)

  • Macau Jockey Club, Macao (Img#: 20) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2007/18)
    The spelling 'Macau' is the Portuguese spelling and the spelling that the 'Macau Jockey Club' chooses. 'Macao' is the official English spelling (and the one I use here)- though you see both spellings used.

  • City of Dreams, Macao (Img#: 5)
    Archival Inkjet Print (2007/18)

  • Mahjong Parlor, Macao (Img#: 4) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2007/18)

  • Portrait in the Basement of the Dom Pedro Theater, Macao (Img#: 9) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2007/18)

  • Teenage Couple, Macao (Img#: 11) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2019)

  • The 'Galaxy' Hotel, Macao (Img#: 17) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2019)

  • Anna and the Family Dog, Macao (Img#: 2) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2006/19) Anna and the Family Dog, Macao (Img#: 2) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2006/19)
    Filipina domestic worker, Anna taking a dog for a walk.

  • Dining Room, 'The 13', Macao (Img#: 6) (Size: 28x30")
    Archival Inkjet Print (2019)


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