The above photo (entitled Thank You For Shopping With Us) has been chosen to be a part of the Artists of Rubber City's 28th Annual Juried Art Show. If you're in the Akron area, it will be on exhibit at the BOX Gallery inside Summit Artspace from March 2- March 31. Having one of my mall photos chosen to be a part of this show is insane to me, and I'm totally thrilled. I'm also really, really ready to talk about malls.
So, why malls?
I grew up during the time where The Mall was the center of our universe. Growing up in Kenmore, there was really never a central space for people to hang out in the neighborhood. But The Mall? I lived maybe 10 minutes from it. I spent so much time inside of Rolling Acres Mall that I probably paced a path into those tiles. I spent entire weekends there, hanging out with friends, looking at boys and not talking to them. I would go to the book stores and the news stand and read music magazines. I would meet friends in the food court. I had my first job ever in that mall.
I never thought Rolling Acres would be gone, but today, it is. The photo above is of a secondary door at the former Macy's (Kaufmann's/O'Neils/May Company). It used to lead into a smaller part of the department store that had some formalwear, a hair salon, and a plus size section. Now, everything behind that broken door has been demolished.
When I left the working world to take care of my mental and physical health, I found myself with a lot of extra time during the day. So, I started researching malls in the area, and started visiting them. I prefer malls that are still open, even if it's just barely alive. Because the nostalgia is sweeter when the smell in the air is a mix of Bath and Body Works, Auntie Anne's, and moldy plaster. It's interesting to see which retailers hold on. It's scary to take rides on escalators and elevators that you can tell haven't been serviced in a very long time.
My Mall is dead. There's another mall closeby (Chapel Hill Mall) that is absolutely dying. When I travel, I go to malls. I always have. And until they're all gone, I'll continue to do it.
I love looking at the architecture. The tile work. The store facades, and whether they've been updated over the years. There are a lot of malls in my area that all look the same, because they were all built by the same person.
I also remember how busy malls used to be. Weekends at Rolling Acres were insanely busy. So much so that you had to stay with the flow of foot traffic, or people would just run into you. Now that i'm older I hate busy spaces, and I would venture to guess that i'm not the only one who feels that way. Having constant access to information and a faster news cycle makes everything scary. Big spaces are scary. Strangers are scary.
Some of my only good memories from my youth are from various trips to The Mall. So it feels appropriate as I work through my own shit and the trauma from my youth that malls are disappearing at the same time. It's almost comforting in a way. Change is good, even when it's scary.
I have some malls on my list to go and see and photograph. I use my phone for most of the shots, because a lot of these malls have strict no photo policies. But i've also noticed that since I'm a woman and I'm a bit older, I have never been approached by mall security. So, I may branch out and take my camera (once I upgrade my camera to something more compact and mirrorless).
I always thought my passion project would be a novel. But I love going to the mall. So, i'm going to do that.
If you're interested in what i've done so far, you can find my photos on Instagram under #rustbeltmallwalker .
If you want to learn more about dead malls, I'd highly recommend Dan Bell's Dead Mall Series on YouTube. I will personally never do video walk throughs, but I do enjoy watching them (with the sound off, because fuck the music they use in those videos).