Minolta x700 and Kodak Tri-X
5 frames with...

5 Frames Of Kodak Tri-X in An Empty West Edmonton Mall – By Nick Colburn

August 19, 2020

Back in March of this year, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic reached the city I’m currently living in: Edmonton, Alberta Canada.

For a lot of people, there was a feeling that the virus would never come this far. How could it? Things like this don’t happen where “I” live… do they? This question was answered when case numbers began to rise and doors started to close. Edmonton declared a state of Emergency, and overnight, our city changed.

This of course isn’t unique to my city. We simply got a taste of what has been happening all over the world. The pandemic showed up on our doorstep and changed everything. From our daily routines, to hanging out with friends on the weekend. Our world was turned upside down and made everyone realized that, yes… this CAN happen where you live.

It’s only been 4 months since the state of Emergency was declared, and already, things are trying to go back to normal. We all have our fingers crossed that there’s not going to be another wave that shuts everything down again. But after 4 months, it already feels like we’re forgetting that there was a lock-down.

When doors were closing and the city was becoming a Ghost-Town, I knew this was unprecedented. Never before had this city seen such a halt in it’s hustle and bustle. This had to be documented.

As a photographer, I admire the greats of old: Robert Frank, Bresson, McCullin, Dorothea Lang. Their work is so important, and documents amazing and terrible times in history. Times that are not wise to forget. Thus, as a photographer, I wanted to pay tribute to these brilliant and brave artists, and document what was happening near me.

I went to West Edmonton Mall; the largest mall in North America at noon on a Saturday. At this time of day, it’s usually a gridlock of shoppers, loiterers and tourists filling up it’s corridors. The Mall is a huge hub of commerce within the city. However, in March, it was completely empty.

I brought along my Minolta X-700, and 2 rolls of Kodak Tri-x (a classic documentary film). It was an eery experience being there when it was so quiet. Where I’m usually waiting in ques at Starbucks, or squeezing passed a row of friends who take up the entire hallway, there was no one.

Now that everything is beginning to open back up, there’s likely a chance the mall will never be empty like that again. I’m glad I had the chance to go there and document it, and I do feel these images are important.

I want to give a huge thanks to Hamish for letting me write this on his site and link back to my own work! I’ve recently started writing my own personal blog (The Analogue Experience) which is very much inspired by 35mmc. If you liked this article, there you can find a much longer version with more photos.

You can also see more of my photos in my Instagram @the.analogue.experience

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  • Reply
    Jim Hanes
    August 19, 2020 at 2:48 pm

    Orange Julius! That place is worth a 36 exposure roll, but of Ektar, on its own merits!

  • Reply
    Kate Johnson
    August 19, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    I love the X-700. It’s probably my favorite 35 mm. And Tri-X? Haven’t used it in a while, but I have a project coming up where I’ll have to use it. Thanks for the refresher on this film……going to check out your blog.

    • Reply
      Nick Colburn
      August 20, 2020 at 2:28 am

      Ya what a great camera. And I really do like Tri-X. But I wouldn’t consider it in Cinestill Df96. I’m currently testing other developers and gonna develop some Tri-X soon! And thanks!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2020 at 2:19 am

    Very interesting documentary work. In years to come, there may be more empty malls to photograph as they close down in response to online shopping, high rents, and just plain lack of interest in the mall experience.

    • Reply
      Nick Colburn
      August 20, 2020 at 2:28 am

      Thanks! Ya no kidding. They’re certainly an interesting place to take pictures.

  • Reply
    Miichael McDermott
    August 23, 2020 at 6:48 pm

    Sometimes I like people in my shots and sometimes I don’t. It depends. Here I’d want the mall empty since you never see it that way and this situation would be perfect to document. This virus event was also good for empty street pictures almost as though they could have been a scene from On the Beach and a deserted San Francisco. However, once, there was a massive storm in the Bay Area which caused a lot of wind damage. I lived in San Francisco and decided to walk into Golden Gate Park. Soon wondered where everyone else was as the park is similar to Central Park in New York. Walked the park for hours shooting pictures of the sights with no people. Happy as a clam but couldn’t understand why not a soul around. Later that night, on the news, I heard that the city put the park off limits due to falling trees which I was unaware of. It was a pleasant and eerie experience all in one.

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