Michael Galinsky: The Decline of Mall Civilization
Today, we sandwich this post between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, one day that sends us to our local shopping centers for deep discounts, the other day that reflects the glued-to-screens behavior that has created the decline of in-store shopping. Michael Galinsky’s amazing chronicle of 1980’s experiential retail, The Decline of Mall Culture is now in it’s second book incarnation, with help from a very successful Kickstarter campaign. The book is self-published, and can be purchased at rumur.com/malls, in addition to brick and mortar stores: Dashwood Books in New York, Arcana Books in Los Angeles, Books & Books in Miami, NC Museum of Art in Raleigh, Photoeye in Santa Fe, and Beyond Words in the UK.
After World War II, families began to move out of the city, into suburban neighborhoods. Malls became ubiquitous monoliths defining communities, offing up all kinds of Main Street entertainment for the bored-out-of-their-gourds teenagers, new mothers, empty nesters, and family’s looking to get out of the house. The mall became a city unto itself and Michael documented it all–the good, the bad, and the ugly, a project that started as a student assignment and lead to a cross country investigation of place.
Michael Galinsky is a filmmaker, photographer, musician, and writer. As a music fan he began to document the underground music world in NY where he went to college. In the summer of 1989 he began his first project outside of music, making street photos in malls. He drove across the country and found around 20 malls to focus on. When he returned from that trip he started a band and eventually turned to filmmaking in order to more fully document the underground music scene. With his partner Suki he made “Half-Cocked” in 1994 and they went on to make 8 other feature films. Two of those films, “Horns and Halos” (2002) and “Battle for Brooklyn” (2011) were shortlisted for the Oscar. In 2012 he received a Guggenheim to support work on their film “Conception”. They’re still working on that one. His photo book “Malls Across America” was published by Steidl in 2013. “Decline of Mall Civilization” is a follow up that is made of entirely of new images. It is being published by their company Rumur, and will be available the first week of December 2019.
The Decline of Mall Civilization
In 1989 I took “color printing”, my first photo class in college. I lived in New York City but my girlfriend lived on Long Island and I would visit fairly often. On one trip she had to run an errand at the mall. As soon as we walked in I knew I’d found my class project. At the time I was a religious studies major, as well as a fan of Robert Frank, Gary Winogrand, and William Eggleston. I spent several hours a week browsing through books at “A Photographers Place” in Soho. Framed through the sociology/anthropology lens, and informed by a deepening obsession with photo books, I thought about the mall as a privatized public space, and tried to think about what that meant in a larger cultural sense. I figured that if Robert Frank was doing the Americans then he would be shooting in malls, rather than diners, and I thought about how Eggleston would squeeze the color for meaning. My teacher was as excited about the work as I was and encouraged me to continue it across the country that summer. I did. I was happy with what I got, but at the time this kind of work was of little interest to the photo world which was fully focused on the kind of production work that defined the “pictures generation”. I also had no connection to the world of photography, so the slides went into a box and aged quietly. 20 years later I found them, scanned some, and put them online. They exploded in a viral fashion.
To make a long story short, I did a Kickstarter to raise funds to make a book. The book I had hoped to make ended up being published by Steidl. They made a nice book, “Malls Across America”, but severely under-printed. So, when it went viral again, they sold out before they could reach stores. 6 years later, I started work on a new book hoping to get it out for the 30th anniversary of my trip. It’s been a rough year but I’m getting it in just under the wire. The book is printed and it’s on it’s way to the US from the printer Faenza in Italy (they reached out to me during our Kickstarter and did an amazing job on the printing). “The Decline of Mall Civilization” is filled with entirely new images. Whereas “Malls Across America” featured entirely single images over double page spreads, I designed the new book as a series of diptychs. I tried to pair images that played off of each other visually, and I’m very happy with the flow of the book. It will be in a number of fine stores like Dashwood Books in NYC, Books and Books in Miami, and Photoeye in Santa Fe. Beyondwords.co.uk will have it in Europe and I’ve arranged for a friend to ship it out in Australia to make it more efficient. It can also be found at Rumur.com/the-decline. Once again, we did a Kickstarter to make the book and pre-sold about half of the print run of 2000 copies. I strongly encourage you got get it quickly because Malls Across America is impossible to find and I think the same thing will happen with The Decline of Mall Civilization. At this point we have about 700 left for sale.
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