Vivid photographs on display at the Carlson Gallery presented the stories of lottery tickets and many lucky Americans to faculty members and students at photographer Edie Bresler’s “We Sold a Winner: On Resilient American Dreams” exhibit reception on Oct. 30.
“I think as a whole body of works, it’s an interesting concept and theme to go with,” said Kolten Frapwell, sophomore business administration major.
“They’re all very thoughtful in terms of composition and time of the day for these pictures,” he said.
In 2012, Americans spent over $65 billion on lottery tickets.
Lottery tickets are the “most iconic symbols of working class neighborhoods in the United States,” as stated in the faculty reflection paper on the exhibit by Director of Civic and Community Engagement Marisol Morales.
Bresler’s exhibit was intended to look at income inequality and the hope that lottery provides to those who have economic difficulties. Winning jackpot lottery tickets provide life changing opportunities to the winners, bringing many out of debt or fulfilling others’ lifelong dreams.
The jackpot lottery ticket sellers, often owners of small family-run convenience stores, also benefit because they would receive a large commission as well.
“It’s an interesting topic for photos,” said Daniel Torres, junior photography and creative writing major.
“It’s interesting because each picture tells a story of different stories like stores that have sold many jackpot tickets and got a commission,” he said.
“Denise” tells the story of Denise, a manager at MotoMart in Red Bud, Illinois, where a Mega Millions lottery ticket was sold. The owner of the store received the maximum bonus commission of $500,000 and gifted $50,000 for the seven employees at the store.
In the photograph, Denise is standing in front of the cashier counter while holding a bassoon she bought for her husband, who is a former Air Force Band member, with the $25,000 she received.
“I have never thought that for convenience stores, commission (for lottery tickets) can be a big part of their income,” Torres said. “It’s an interesting story to tell through photographs.”
Some stores are luckier than other stores such as a store in Lowell, Massachusetts, in “The Patel Family.” The store sold two $1 million jackpot-winning tickets in the last five years and received a $10,000 bonus commission each time.
In the photograph, a couple and their children are posing in front of their lucky store.
While some stores keep selling winning tickets, Frank and Rafaella of Somerville, Massachusetts, are not as lucky, as depicted in the photograph “Frank and Rafaella.”
The couple looks very serious while showing a photograph of Frank’s father who helped him purchase the shop 57 years ago. After almost six decades, they still have never sold a jackpot lottery ticket.
For Americans in states where there are no state lottery, they often cross the border to play, such as Dick from Carr, Colorado, in the 2014 photograph, “Dick, regular player.” He lives in Wyoming but he regularly plays weekly at a store along the Colorado border.
In the photograph, Dick is wearing a cowboy hat while seated on a table at a Western-style store with banners with the words “Don’t forget to play.”
While for many working class Americans, lottery tickets are chances to dreams and hopes, for some students, lottery tickets do not play an essential role in their life.
“I wouldn’t have a reason to,” said Ashlyn Hulin, freshman photography major. “I never thought of it as necessary and I never thought of doing it.”
On the other hand, sometimes lottery tickets can bring back past memories.
“I bought one lottery ticket for my dad one time before a road trip from a mini mart,” Frapwell said. “I saw it and I was like, ‘why not?’”
The exhibit runs until Dec. 12.
Cody Luk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.