American Wasteland by Raafae Ghory
Spending my adolescence in East Brunswick- an epitomic suburban town in central NJ- I always noted the abandoned retail spaces which exhausted massive amounts of land yet served no purpose to the community (or lack thereof) in this suburban microcosm. I always examined these spaces from afar, mainly while driving down Route 18, always intrigued but never enough to experience them up close. In the beginning months of 2018 I returned to my hometown and decided to photograph the abandoned malls, trying to understand the spaces and come to terms with my fascination with them. But this project is as much a social project as it is a personal one. Raafae Ghory
In the 50’s and 60’s Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, pioneers of color photography, captured the essence of the American experience. This experience was very much characterized by the very same malls and suburban life that bred them, which Shore spent many years taking photos of with his large format camera. In spirit of these photographers and to accentuate the change that has happened between these years, I photographed these spaces using a large format film camera that my predecessors used to photograph the same subject matter.
Yet, the differences in my photographs and theirs, is where the story lies. These images are representative of the Retail Apocalypse that is currently taking place in America. These malls once were the poster child for capitalist America and the idealization of suburban-life, are now massive, empty and depressing locations left with no purpose, simply to decay as technology and e-commerce increasingly take over consumer business.
These structures once symbolized American consumerism, are now simply symbolic of the American wasteland.
Raafae Ghory (b. Lahore, Pakistan 1997) is a photographer based in Brooklyn. He is currently a BFA candidate at NYU Tisch’s Department of Photography and Imaging. Deeply fascinated in anthropology, he explores many aspects of people’s impact on the world and on each other through a documentary lens. While mainly working with images and text, outside of his personal work he has also served on a number of film and multimedia projects. He is also an editor and designer on NYU’s own photography publication called ISO since 2016.