The Shopping Malls and Big Box Stores Gutted by E-Commerce

In 2015, Jesse Rieser became interested in e-commerce warehouses. Following their story backwards, he began shooting the abandoned retail infrastructure they replaced. He captures both in this new series.

Though shoppers still make most purchases in stores, many brick-and-mortar staples have closed in recent years.

Rieser visited more than 150 shuttered stores and malls in Arizona, New Mexico, and southern California while shooting Retail Apocalypse. He found them mostly by driving around, though he also perused the commercial real estate listings on Craigslist.

Department stores like Sears, Macy’s, and JCPenney have shuttered hundreds of locations. Experts predict hundreds more low-tier malls will close.

Rieser visited more than 150 shuttered stores and malls in Arizona, New Mexico, and southern California while shooting Retail Apocalypse.

The retail infrastructure Rieser photographed sprang up after World War II, when families began flocking to the suburbs.

Rieser found his subjects mostly by driving around, though he also perused the commercial real estate listings on Craigslist.

Riser photographed the retail ghost towns with a Canon 5DS R, capturing empty parking lots, boarded windows, and the traces of removed signage.

The pastel colors and bright light belie the dismal nature of the scenes Rieser captures.

His goal is to inspire thought about how the internet impacts public space, and what happens to community when physical transactions become unnecessary.

“When you think of architectural ruins, you think of a civilization or a time that has passed,” Rieser says, “but this wasn’t a previous civilization. It was just a few years ago.”

Here, a bulldozer excavates a site near a movie theater.

Rieser’s images bear a flat, illustrative quality that looks almost painterly.

He hopes to extend the project by photographing inside e-commerce warehouses.

Here, plywood boards cover the entrance to a former mall.

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Joan Guzman