This afternoon, the weather was a blah sort of overcast gray sky. I felt antsy and angsty just sitting around watching TV since my photo shoot was cancelled. CNN and my Facebook were just an endless barrage of people fighting over which party has the most molesters. I had to turn it all off, tune it all out. I needed some visual stimulation and an emotional lift, so I went to Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Hamilton Place Mall with camera in tow.
Barnes & Noble is, of course, my own personal Disneyland. I love bookstores in general. I love the newsstand with the magazine covers showcasing all of the latest editorial photography. All of the celebrity covers. A candy store for a guy who lives to photograph people. I have a real weakness for coffee table art books. I could spend hours looking at them, which is the point, really.
I was a good American consumer, heading to the altar of capitalism. I got my hit of endorphins admiring all of the things I can own as soon as that money trickles down to me from the wealthiest 1%. I thank them for allowing me to lick up their crumbs.
The Mall was all decorated for the holiday season. I passed on getting my photo taken with Santa.
As a photographer, I love the huge window displays offering up objects of desire: the lover dressed up like a present herself on Christmas morning, the friends to be earned once that outfit is acquired and popularity comes with it. We want to be admired and adorned.
I’m noticing more photography with a diversity of body types and even a lack of Photoshopping. I guess it is good that no one walks by a window displaying thinking that they aren’t good enough. But marketing is very much about creating and stoking this desire to have and be more.
The Mall where I spent a lot of time growing up was in the national news a lot this week. News channels reported that the Republican candidate for Jeff Session’s old US Senate seat, Roy Moore, was put on a watch list at the Gadsden Mall because he was notorious for showing up and harassing teenage girls when he was in his 30s and an Assistant D.A. Locals say his behavior was a well-known thing.
“Why’d he have to bring that up?!” you think. I dunno. Fits the topic of this post, I suppose. Sort of anyway. I’ve gone with my daughter to the Gadsden Mall many times over the years. If some guy in his 30s started flirting with her, I would have to beat his ass.
You encounter all different kinds of people at the Mall, I guess. I like people-watching, wondering what the lives of people are like based on where they shop and what they buy. Fashion, in particular, makes such a statement about what we want others to think of us.
I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a fashion makeover for myself. I’ve been feeling old lately and want some wardrobe that is cooler. But I also don’t want to appear desperate to look cooler. Best case scenario, finding a way to not look ridiculous that also adds a dash of age-appropriate style.
Don’t we all feel like something is lacking? That’s why we go to these places, to fill that hole in our soul. Another form of church. Luckily, the Mall displays are there to offer up a variety of visions of who I can become with the swipe of a credit card.
The mannequins display the shape and form of the garments. But unlike the window displays of young, attractive people, the mannequins give us the power to imagine moments when WE are the model wearing those clothes, giving off stylish first impressions to a world full of judgments.
The Mall stirs all sorts of emotions for me. It was emblematic of larger cities where people could find whatever they wanted just down the street and around the corner. My family used to travel a lot to nearby cities like Chattanooga, Gadsden, Birmingham, and Huntsville when I was a kid.
I hated having to stay with my mother while she browsed women’s clothing. Boring… I imagine she didn’t like it much either. I was a whiny little shit. We didn’t have gadgets back then to occupy our time. Just circular racks to crawl inside and pretend we were hiding from baddies.
The first time I was allowed to go off by myself to a store without a parent or sibling, it was amazing.
Thank you, shopping mall, for giving me a sanctuary to escape my blues.
Merry Christmas and pass the cranberry sauce.