Escalator Empathy

Uploaded 18 May 2010 — 7 favorites
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© Joshua Ball
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Photo license: © All rights reserved

This is another image from the ”Urban Explorer” series that my brother Jeff ( and I traveled throughout the rust-belt working on. It was taken at the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, IL. This mall was used in the car chase scene in The Blues Brothers film. It was constructed from 1965 to 1966 and eventually closed its doors in November of 1978. Since then it has sat vacant for over 30 years. The neighborhood it sits in was plagued with crime in the 1970’s which added to its ultimate demise.

When we arrived at the location, I immediately noticed a large chain-link fence surrounding the property. Upon further inspection, it was clear that huge parts of this fence had either fallen down, or were missing completely. As we approached the building, it was obvious that there were multiple ways to enter the building. We decided to start on one side and work our way to another. I was amazed at what 30 years of abandonment had done to this structure. There were huge gaping holes in the roof and the second level had completely collapsed in some places. In the mall’s center, where a huge skylight once stood, there were several plants growing on the mal’s floor. Nature is slowly reclaiming the land and there were even signs of some wildlife throughout the rotting core of the building.

This extremely tangled piece of metal and tile was once an escalator, escorting people to the upper level of the Dixie Square Mall. People would ride it everyday in order to browse the department store aisles and spend their hard earned money for goods that they most likely didn’t need. Today, this tangled mass is a mere ghost of its former self, much like many of the shopping malls across America. The image itself represents the change in consumer demand and thereby the basic evolution of capitalism. The wants and needs of each generation continues to change in ways that the older generations would have never had imagined. Someday I might be sitting down with my grandchildren talking about the fun I used to have at Southwyck Mall, much like my grandparents must have talked about the Tiedkes store in downtown Toledo. In the last few years, I have seen the destruction of my junior high school, high school and now the entertainment epicenters of my youth. However, this is nothing new and it happens to each generation. Much like the life-cycle of a forest, sometimes everything must be destroyed in order to make room for the new. Everything changes, and it’s something we must all accept, understand and embrace. I have rode escalators like this one hundreds of times, but nothing made by man is meant to last. We develop, improve and sometimes destroy so that we can continue to grow. While this image helps to remind me of my own mortality, it still invites excitement for what the future may bring.

7 responses

  • P. Michael Bodigor

    P. Michael Bodigor gave props (18 May 2010):

    This could be the "New Look" for malls. Nice piece of history.

  • Roxana Brivent-Barnes

    Roxana Brivent-Barnes said (13 Jul 2010):

    Superb shot!

  • Mollie Nelson

    Mollie Nelson gave props (4 Aug 2010):

    reminds me of Wall-E ^^

  • Jacquie Gibson

    Jacquie Gibson (Deleted) gave props (20 Aug 2010):

    Terrific dereliction.

  • Bruna Pegurier

    Bruna Pegurier said (26 Aug 2010):

    You must see if you like that kind of shooting. Idk if you already know him but his work is marvelous and yours is quite good too! Congrats!

  • Kristin Rude

    Kristin Rude said (27 Aug 2010):

    How do I favorite this? I love decay. urban but since I live in Montana, all we get to shoot is rural :)

  • Casey Bennett

    Casey Bennett gave props (1 Sep 2010):

    So nice!

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