Monday, August 30, 2010

History Through the Eyes of the Checkout, the Mall and Pleasant Families

[All images]

For the past 2 years I've spent countless hours scouring the internet for sources and locations for my project on Dark Stores and Dead Malls. One of the greatest discoveries is the amount of websites that are devoted to the history of retail, malls and consumer past. Interestingly enough some of the very practitioners of the historical shopping blog are far younger than the brands or stores they obsessively archive. Much of our retail culture in the US has from it's beginnings been made to be disposable, from the brands to the buildings the very economic model is based on a proverbial whitewash of the old to be replaced by the sparkle of the new.

One of my favorites Labelscar, is devoted specifically to the North American mall that are in most cases dimming from the landscape into extinction. Jason Damas and Ross Schendel mostly provide images taken on their own journeys, often returning to the scene of the crime to access the results over the years. As informative as the posts are the extensive comments which in some cases get quite nostalgic and others political.

Similarly, Nicholas Dimaio has penned The Caldor Rainbow, which focuses on an extinct big box chain that primarily had locations throughout the Northeast and died in 1999. Nicholas also mostly posts from his own excursions to find the remnants of this forgotten brand.

Possibly the most extensive and wonderful example of the historical retail archive blog is Pleasant Family Shopping. A website created by Dave Aldrich which scours countless physical archives of library microfiche, old trade magazines, company annual reports, etc. Dave brings to light not only a spectacular archive but a historical perspective that track the sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic evolutions of retail giants and others whom have disappeared into the ether.

There is countless others whom simply dedicate their curiosity and obsessions to the traditional camera sense of documenting spaces simply to share through flickr or blogs.

2 wonderful dead retail flickr groups:

Dead Malls and Vacant Retail

Closed For Business, Abandoned Shops and Stores

And locals in Chicago, Katherine of Chicago who has been photographing empty chicagoloand for several years; and Jon Revelle whose obsession is the former Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, IL.

Enjoy the retail wormhole.

-Brian Ulrich