The story behind the iconic Atlantic City photo hasn’t been seen in 44 years

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This iconic photo had only been published once, 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 nearly missed this great shot.

He then represents the Resorts International Hotel and Casino Atlantic City on the day of its opening exactly 44 years ago. Kohl’s photo was taken 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.

Famous actor/singer Steve Lawrence is seen rolling a pair of dice on a craps table, surrounded by New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne, New Jersey Senator Steve Perskie… who is the author of New Jersey Casino Control Act and many other dignitaries of the day.

If you missed it, here’s a link to a great follow-up article on how Resorts Casino Hotel Atlantic City changed the game 44 years ago.

Read more: Resorts Casino Hotel has changed everything in Atlantic City, NJ

Those are the highlights… what now follows is the never-told story of how this photograph came to be. The facts we are going to share come straight from the photographer himself, Gregg Kohl.

“Planning for coverage of the resorts grand opening began weeks before the event. It was decided that The Press would lead the opening day with color photos. This had never been done before in Atlantic City Press. I had to research how to process color slides in our press darkroom without any specialized machinery. It was done by hand. And a little prayer,” Kohl said.

The photo is just spectacular. It captures an important moment in history in a split second. The black and white photo you may have seen in the last 44 years can’t compare to the beauty of this color version, the angle and the depth, because Kohl was able to take it from high.

Photo of Gregg Kohl on the opening day of the Resorts Casino Hotel – May 27, 1978.

Photo of Gregg Kohl on the opening day of the Resorts International Hotel & Casino – May 27, 1978.

That was decades before smartphones could take high resolution photos. This photo required thought and planning to achieve.

In 1978, taking a great photo took a lot of work and planning.

“I did my research and came up with a plan that would allow me to take the photo for the front page and all the other secondary photos,” Kohl said.

“There were other photographers on the team, Mike Blizzard and Stan Pontiere. Mike Blizzard was not a staff member of The Atlantic City Press, but was a contract photographer who did some of the daily assignments,” Kohl said.

“Stan and I were the two staff members who were there and I think we may have called Tom Kinnemand from the Cape May office to help us. Tom was also a staff photographer,” Kohl said.

The technical aspects of this “color shoot” were of a complex and uncertain nature.

Kohl described his complex task like this:

“I was able to purchase color slide film and Kodak made a color slide film processing kit that you can make at home to develop the color slides.”

“The press was very liberal on the practice runs and we all felt it was a knock. The hardest part was I needed 105-107 degree water temp for about 40 minutes. That was the big if. The day’s newspaper of the event made sure no one was using hot water at the Devins Lane plant in Pleasantville,” Kohl said.

The plan was for Kohl to take the front page image and any other photos he could get. Kohl also faced time constraints as he had to return directly to Pleasantville to process the slides.

This involved Kohl driving to the resorts early enough to secure a parking space right next to 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 I had to get that front page photo that looked different and told the story at a glance” , said Kohl.

When Kohl arrived at the craps table for the grand opening photo, the media had already arrived and taken all the best photo spots.

Kohl was alone. There were no public relations staff to help save him. As a hometown, local newspaper, The Atlantic City Press has generally received preferential treatment and placement.

Not that day, as Kohl arrived a bit late and no one was about to give up their top spot.

“Looking around I saw a familiar face. Sid Stoen set up a 10ft aluminum ladder just behind the front row of photographers and news cameras,” Kohl said.

Sid Stoen was a local Margate photographer and Kohl’s mentor.

“Sid taught me how to take pictures with a 4×5 camera and how to develop and print convention photos in a hotel room that was turned into a darkroom,” Kohl said.

“Sid understood my dilemma and offered me his position on his scale. You insisted on him. No one else could have the view I had. Sid gave up his shot for me,” Kohl said.

“Sid understood my dilemma and offered me his position on his scale. He insisted. No one else could have the view I had. Sid gave up his shot for me,” Kohl said.

“Without Sid, I couldn’t have gotten this picture,” Kohl said.

Kohl being able to photograph this from above made all the difference and makes his photo incomparable to any others.

Kohl credits Sid Stoen with teaching him about photography and business.

“I will never forget Sid. His generosity allowed me to shine with the readers of the paper and my superiors, Bob Ebner, editor and Chuck Reynolds, publisher of The Atlantic City Press,” Kohl said.

“So once the slides have been developed. A driver from ABARTA, the newspaper conglomerate The Press at the time, came from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to collect the color slides and took them back to a sister newspaper of the ABARTA chain and printed the newspaper the next day from up there and they had tractor trailers full of newspapers driven to the Pleasantville office for delivery the next morning,” Kohl said.

“When I did this, I had only worked at The Press for 4 years. I wasn’t green then…it was the biggest story I’ve ever covered. Scary, yes “I don’t know where I would be today without it being part of my portfolio. It definitely paved the way for me to become a better planner and photographer,” Kohl said.

A friend taught me an expression yesterday that I had never heard before. It goes like this… “Pre-preparation prevents poor performance.”

Kohl then worked at The Press of Atlantic City for 22 years, before starting his own photography business.

Kohl works for 60 contractors in four states and also continues to work at local casinos.

Incredible, his high-profile work includes: Kohl recording 15 years of rebuilding Manhattan’s Freedom Tower, which he describes as “a profound experience.”

You now know the rest of this story. A story never told until now.

THE SOURCE: Gregg Kohl.

REMARK: I worked with Gregg Kohl at The Atlantic City Press from 1978 to 1980.

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