'Lord, please let the Food Court be okay.' Coach, Seph Lawless has something you should see.
Way back in 1978 George Romero's Dawn of the Dead gave us the abandoned American shopping mall as post-apocalyptic metaphor, but when Romero hit zombies with cream pies the mall was still very much a vibrant icon of consumerism. Not so today, as photographer Seph Lawless points out. He's been crawling through abandoned malls, collecting images for his book Black Friday, now out in e-format as well as physical. Take a look at what's left of an American shopping tradition: you won't spot a Hunter sneaking in the shadows, which to my mind makes the whole thing creepier.
"I started taking these a couple years ago," says Lawless, "Because I thought there was a big disconnect between Americans and the reality which surrounds them. I thought Americans lived in a bubble, and I wanted to show some of the most broken and abandoned parts of the country." He started with hospitals and homes, before turning to shopping malls; he wanted to find images that people would really connect with, on a gut level.
The decay of the malls follows the decay of the communities that fed them. Take Akron, once the 'Rubber Capital of the World.' It made car tires, but increased competition and the acquisition of US manufacturers throughout the 1980s and 1990s meant that by the mid-90s only one company, Goodyear, had its headquarters in Akron, and all the plants had shut. Akron's dying on its feet, and its Rolling Acres mall, which once housed 140 stores, is the kind of place you find corpses, not shoppers. The last picture in the gallery is Rolling Acres.
"They're trying to change; they're trying to get different kinds of anchors, discount stores," says retail expert Howard Davidowitz. "[But] what's going on is the customers don't have the fucking money. That's it. This isn't rocket science."
If you're interested in Black Friday the ebook can be had for a little under $10; the landscape size paperback starts at $69, and prices go up and up for the hardcover and premium limited edition.