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From Mall Rats to Social Butterflies

Our culture can be very fickle when it comes to social norms, as in what is in, and what is out. Not so long ago I read about this extremely affluent neighborhood called Brush Park located very close to downtown Detroit that was clearly abandoned. Poof! The homes that were built there were ornate mini mansions. I wondered what happened to this neighborhood, which began in the mid 1800s, and by the 1920s was in steady decline. My brief internet search informed me that these individuals decided, in-group, to move to what we now know as the suburbs.

The shopping malls across America can relate to this because they too have been in a steady decline for years. With the recent pandemic, and prior to that the ease of online retail, brick and mortar stores are optional, and a social cliché. Why go to the mall to hang out with friends, or go to the grocery store to find a date when there is face time, and Tinder?

I was never a mall rat (who thought up this term) even when it was cool to be one. A mall rat is defined as a person who habitually frequents the mall for social purposes. This idea of mingling with friends sounds as archaic as roller skating, and the soda fountain. Our social habits have changed dramatically with the rise of the internet, social media, the cell phone and text messages.

I recently went to one of our super malls that is now in decline. It was my second visit there ever and I was struck by the sterility of the environment, and the lack of patrons. The mall is roughly over a million and a half square feet, and I saw maybe twenty shoppers. Maybe. Nostalgia rushed in on a wave of unsettling feelings; indescribable, like the hollow of an echo. Only two anchor stores remain with most of the shops standing empty with posters from the 1980s covering the windows and doors. Muzak from the 1980s was being piped in, and belatedly I thought that I should have asked Siri, what is this song?

My current photo project is about, what else? Analog. So this was a good subject to convey how we once shopped and socialized in analog form. It's ironic that pop up stores are on the rise, and mega malls are in decline. Traditional work spaces seems to have next with offices morphing into clones of shared work space alternatives like WeWork.

The images below were shot with my Lomography LC-Wide set on half frame with Lomochrome Purple. I also had my Holga and LC-A 120 loaded with different film. I decided to use all images from the LC-Wide because of the rampant symbolism, and the surreal dream-like images that defines mall culture at this moment in time; receding. Click to view larger; galleries and slide shows are cropped.

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