I have seen much of Seph Lawless’ photographic work of abandoned malls in the United States, and as many times as I’ve seen the images, I’m still fascinated and drawn to their eeriness.
The following is an article about his photographic project Black Friday: Haunting Documentary Photo Series Captures Abandoned Malls in the US
I guess, for me, the siren song of these photos comes from partly my youth and partly my concept of the passage of time. Like many my age (mid-40s) I grew up spending a decent amount of my pre-teen and teenage years hanging out in malls. First, as a younger person, memorized by the spectacle, and then as a teen, using the mall as a place to be apart from the watchful eyes of authority and be a little rebellious.
I suppose the haunting aspect of these photos though is how it exposes the passage of time and obliterates our sense of permanence. When we look at nature or planets such as Mars, we can imagine the very slow transformation of landscape and try to conceive of what millions of years means. But with these photos, it drives home the fragility of human life and how quickly our beautiful structures can become decrepit hovels.
Malls in the 1980s and 90s were monuments to capitalism the power of innovation. That such structures could exist, with their air conditioned/heated, tiled, commercial wonderment, was one part miraculous, one part a testament to human ingenuity. Their existence quickly became unquestioned. They just simply “were.”
Then the end of the 1990s came and the mall on the east side of my hometown shut down. Its food court and specialty shops were no more, along with my memories of awkward first kisses, shopping with my mom, and seeing movies with friends.