I exchanged a few emails recently with photographer Brian Ulrich, who has been working on a Guggenheim scholarship to travel the United States and take pictures of vacant retail spaces and dead malls before they hit the wrecking ball.
He has a compelling sample of his work up at his website, Not If But When, which also contains sets from other projects exploring retail and pop culture. His photos are stark and dramatic, and although we’ve seen some of these very scenes before we were taken with the way Brian’s high-contrast photos capture the lonely misery of these sites.
Although I realize a superficial reading of features like these may focus on the disposability of American consumer culture, I think there’s something very genuinely sad about the loss of these important social spaces, which is a big part of why we created Labelscar in the first place. A more serious look at what we’ve lost is sometimes the first step towards realizing why we want to save it in the future, so it’s hard not to be excited about works like this or the release of the new documentary “Malls R Us” (which I plan to see when I can).
Brian’s also planning for the work to culminate in a book of his work some time in the near future. Check out what he has so far; I think most Labelscar readers will be impressed. There is also an upcoming exhibition of “Dark Stores, Ghostboxes, and Dead Malls” at San Francisco’s Robert Koch Gallery from September 10th-October 31st, for anyone on the west coast.