White sand beaches, magnificent architectural icons, and forested landscapes–all these are common subjects of photographers. But Michael Hess, a professional German photographer, found beauty in unfamiliar territory—bingo halls.
Bingo halls are a dying breed in the Philippines but in Europe, these halls have provided a different perspective for aspiring shutterbugs. Unfortunately, part of these clubs and halls’ diminishing audience is caused by the influx of online bingo portals. Today, bingo operators spend millions on advertising these websites. According to Social Casino Intelligence, bwin’s foxybingo.com “spent an estimated £2.3m between January and April of this year on TV advertising as operators spent £19m overall during the same period.”
Even with the presence of online portals, land-based bingo halls still provide a different kind of magic for enthusiasts. Hess, originally a photographer who focused on UK’s national hip hop landscape, found his big break when he decided to play bingo one night.
“I played bingo one night in 2005, just out of curiosity about what went on inside the big old converted cinema near my house. I was instantly fascinated by the characters. And so the next time I visited, I took my camera. 4 years and more than 60 bingo halls later I was ready to make Bingo & Social Club,” he said in his blog Michael‘s Photo Website.
So how did the legend come to be? According to Hess, he sought a balance of capturing UK’s vibrant hip hop scene with the quietness found in bingo.
“I got into hip hop when I was exploring dance in the UK. I was fascinated by the pure energy and the buzz that goes through a room during a bboy battle; how you can communicate so powerfully with just your body. It was extremely rewarding to freeze those moments. Actually I was photographing bingo at the same time and enjoyed the balance between the quietness and concentration of bingo and the fast-moving, energetic bboy battles,” Hess said in an interview by Idol Magazine.
“Bingo is a world that lives inside huge windowless buildings, and that most people never see. I wanted to open it up to a new audience and, as I learned more about the subject, I wanted to show that it’s about far more than gambling. There’s a huge social aspect to bingo,” Hess added. The social aspect of bingo is what keeps the game alive even in today’s booming online gaming market.