The Lonesome Crowded Shopping Centres Of The 1980s

The Lonesome Crowded Shopping Centres Of The 1980s

When discussing street photography, locations like New York City or Los Angeles probably spring to mind. A less obvious setting is that icon of late 20th-century capitalism: the shopping mall. Stephen DiRado roved the halls of his local mall in the ’80s and captured stunning portraits of the denizens within.

Many of DiRado’s photos have a candid, spontaneous feel to them, but stand in heavy contrast to the iconic milieux that we all identify as ‘street photography’. Those like Garry Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz focused on urban centres, but there is a public to be documented in many other contexts, and DiRado’s series is a perfect example of that. In actuality, he befriended many of his subjects beforehand, and sometimes only went on to take a picture after a long conversation. The process was further slowed down as a result of his equipment: a tripod mounted large format camera and strobe.

The photos have a sterile, almost haunting quality shaped by the direct light of DiRado’s flash. His subjects often appear sullen or lonesome among the surrounding mall architecture that is recognisable to anyone raised in an American suburb. Of course, your memories may be a bit more cheery than how the mall is portrayed in this series. Despite the fact that to some, malls are endemic of a soulless consumer society, they were also the playgrounds for countless rebellious adolescents and even community meeting places.

Whatever your feeling toward indoor malls, they are largely a fading relic, and DiRado’s series is a wonderful document of an iconic cultural phenomenon. You can check out much more of his work here. [Feature Shoot]

Photographer Stephen DiRado primarily and relentlessly documents his family, friends and every day acquaintances. His work is in public and private collections worldwide and can be found in publications beyond the US in such diverse places as Australia, Russia, Germany and Great Britain. DiRado has received six highly prized fellowships, most recently a 2012 John Simon Guggenheim. He is also a Professor of Practice in Photography in the Studio Arts, Visual and Performing Arts, Clark University, Worcester, MA, USA.