The life and death of the American shopping centre is a familiar story by now. A few decades ago, these shrines to consumerism dotted suburbia, only to be denied relevance by a push back towards city centres. But few images express the scale of this trend as much as those in Black Friday: The Collapse of the American Mall.
The photos that fill this new coffee table book by Seph Lawless are arrestingly empty. That’s probably because one of the shopping centres therein, Ohio’s Randall Park Mall, was once the largest shopping centres in America. “[Mall culture] was such an intricate part of the city that the town is represented by the two shopping bags appearing in the municipal seal,” Lawless explains in the book’s introduction.
Randall Park Mall and Rolling Acre Mall, which is also pictured in the book, were both Lawless’s stomping grounds as a kid, a detail that adds an eery relevance to the derelict buildings. “We all remember spending time there and for the most part it was in happier times,” Lawless said. “I remember visiting Santa Claus as a kid at these malls during Christmas and eventually getting my first job at the mall. The mall had character and the architecture was beautiful.”
And, like other photo sets of abandoned shopping centres we once loved, there is a deeper message, one that hints at a darker history. “It’s a powerful symbol of America’s economic decline,” said Lawless. “I used to visit these malls often growing up. I remember eating cotton candy underneath the escalator and the sounds of people laughing and feet shuffling as the gentle sounds of falling water from one of the many fountains surrounded me. This was America.”
Pictures: Seph Lawless
Seph Lawless is the pseudonym of an American artist and activist. His first book Autopsy of America (2013) chronicled the devastation of globalisation on American cities, and he continues to explore these topics. His personal website can be found here and you can Like his Facebook page here.