Photographer Seph Lawless braved the dangers of abandoned malls like the Randall Park Mall in Ohio to give us a glimpse of America’s broken and forgotten parts. In his book ‘Black Friday – The Collapse of The American Shopping Mall‘, he offers us a visual tour, as well as powerful commentary, on the country’s messed up economy.
In this exclusive interview, he talks about his experience in the abandoned malls (including a few ghost stories) and why he keeps on coming back to these forsaken places.
Please take us through your thoughts and emotions when you first entered the malls. Did you feel sad? Afraid? Or privileged to enter closed off grounds?
I was filled with a tremendous amount of sadness. Often times emotionally breaking down into tears.
Did you have to ask permission to get into the malls or were they abandoned enough to just simply walk in?
I never get permission. I would never be granted permission. I take the risk of imprisonment and trespass illegally.
How does it feel that many have taken a liking to your series, that many are so curious to see America’s abandoned places?
The response has been overwhelming all over the world. The goal was to have this kind of impact on the masses by design, so I feel as though I achieved that goal.
Other than malls, you’ve also photographed deserted places like homes and theatres. What compels you to capture these forgotten places?
I wanted the world to see America for what it is. A more accurate depiction of my country. Behind all the glam and beautiful city skylines of New York and Los Angeles lies some of the most broken and forgotten parts of America.
Hidden in the shadows where no one can see and no one wants to look. So I started taking photographs and using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to shove these images into as many people’s faces that I could. I wasn’t about to let Americans get comfortable in their denial as these problems only got worse and our country slipped away. I wanted Americans to start caring…start loving each other again and loving their country before it was too late.
Since you’ve been to so many dilapidated and forsaken places, do you have any personal ghost stories to tell?
Not that couldn’t be explained. Several occasions I didn’t realize until I got home and edited pictures that I saw people hidden in the abandoned places watching me and at the time it was too dark to see but noticed them after the fact. Kinda frightening.