Americas Malls and the Fall they Mask

Image

 

http://www.cherryplucker.com/2013/11/08/scenes-from-a-mall-34-photos-of-people-american-mall-1989/

Or for the site selling the photograph book:

http://www.steidl.de/flycms/de/Books/0410275359.html

In the late 20th century America began to change. Small businesses became more and more redundant as box stores (walmart etc..) and malls spread across the country. “In 1989 Michael Galinsky, a twenty-year-old photographer, drove across the country recording this change: the spaces, textures and pace that defined this era”.

This is an era that defines america, it is america in its prime, the zenith of the superpower that is following its steady path of decline since the Vietnam war, and the Nixon presidency. American’s lost their virtue in this period, they were no longer considered perfect. Although the pictures show a time that is after their Fall, it is still a time remarkably better than the US is in now. China’s rise is hampering its strength, its ineffective military campaigns put them in further disrepute and so does their use of unmanned drones and Guantanamo Bay.

So why are these images published now? Well, don’t we all long for the past. Time has not been kind for superpowers, eventually their power will end, something which would be terrible for America and its ideas of Exceptionalism. They were released this year, a year that has not been particularly kind to America, and a slump which is going to continue for the foreseeable future. 

Therefore, these images are a kind of ownership of the past, a form of control over their prime years. Freud’s Fort/Da game came to mind as I viewed these images. The photographer certainly couldn’t have planned their significance today, but they have given American’s the ability to own their past and by extension America’s dominance in the period. By recreating this period, the viewer has power over it, a power that they may no longer have in the real world.

What is a photograph? Is it just a snap shot in time, or an ownership of that time? To use Orientalist discourse, do we colonise the past so that we feel that we are in control of our future?

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