5 Nostalgic Cities for Vintage Photoshoots

Photographers look far and wide for the best locations in which to capture their subjects. And sometimes the best options can be those few places in the world that seem to stand still in time. There's a certain power to a place with this kind of recognizability, and so for any photographer (or artist of any kind for that matter) who might agree, we've put together a list of five American cities with strong nostalgia factors that can make for beautiful subjects.

1. Hollywood (Los Angeles)

Hollywood has played an incredibly important role in American history, and not just through the actual films it's produced. During the two world wars and the Great Depression, it provided a small but significant bit of escapism; its "golden era" is still celebrated to the point that even now it's at the core of one of the most popular movies of the summer (Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood). And even now, Hollywood is viewed as perhaps the world capital of glitz, glamor, and celebrity culture.

Through all of this history, this relative fantasy town within Los Angeles has developed numerous iconic locations. There's the Hollywood sign (originally "Hollywoodland") for starters; there are famous theaters that have been in place for decades; there are colorful murals and walls like the Paul Smith pink wall (8221 Melrose Ave.) and "The Dance Of The Butterflies" (621 N. La Cienega Blvd.). And of course, there's the Hollywood Walk of Fame outside the famous Chinese Theater! Simply put, the city is oozing with history, and thus nostalgic at every turn.

2. Memphis

Though a far cry from Hollywood's film business, the music industry in Tennessee has its own vintage charm. Nashville may get most of the hype on this front today, but the best place for more vintage music flavor is Memphis - the birthplace of blues and the site of so much history. If you do start exploring the city with an eye toward photography, you should start with Beale Street - a famous area, and one in which the lights and signage set the stage for gorgeous images (potentially even in black and white).

There's darker history to be captured too though, if you want to pay homage to one of the great figures in American history. Memphis is also the home of the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot while giving a speech. This downtown location and its surroundings can also give you the chance to tell some powerful historical stories within your photos. 

3. New York City 

New York City is a great place to take photos specifically if you're looking to capture a blend of old and new, which in some cases can showcase nostalgia better than anything else. The city is constantly evolving, such that while some of its oldest buildings date back hundreds of years, they're also sometimes just around the corner from gorgeous new skyscrapers. It's a city where one block can feel as if it hasn't changed in generations and the next can look like a snapshot of the future, and as such it's the perfect place for any photographer looking to infuse a shoot with a sense of time.

4. Atlantic City 

There's a lot that's been written over the years about Atlantic City's descent into something resembling a ghost town. It's all grounded in real economic struggle, and it's true that Atlantic City is far from the Vegas-style East Coast vice capital it was once fashioned as. Furthermore, even now as the city has revived itself in some respects, this has happened largely through New Jersey's budding online gambling industry rather than a resurgence in live casino resort activity.

With all of this said though, there are enough remnants of the golden age in Atlantic City to have preserved that special, intangible sense of nostalgia. Some of the older casinos exude history, the famous boardwalk is still intact and active, and a few particular spots like the Absecon Lighthouse and The Knife and Fork restaurant can sweep you back through time. It can actually be a lovely city for a photographer with interest in these things.

5. St. Louis

In St. Louis, even beyond the famous arch, you can find a lot of straightforward, specific buildings that are like a blast from the past. Missouri's Gateway to the West is a classic location, with its Courthouse (built in 1828), The DeHodiamont House, Eads Bridge, and the Old Cathedral (Basilica of St. Louis) all more than worthwhile for exploring photographers. Meanwhile, for some more unique places to capture vintage photos, there are more choices still. The Eros Bendato head sculpture is a little creepy, but a good fit nonetheless. And the Cotton Belt Freight Depot is not only the site of a fantastic mural, but also an abandoned location, making it a playground for a creative photographer.


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