In January 2017, the Lincoln Mall in south suburban Matteson will have been closed for two full years. Since then, photographer Seph Lawless says it has mostly been untouched.
These photographs are part of Lawless’ ongoing project called “Autopsy of America” where he documents the country’s abandoned and forgotten ruins.
“This mall was different from other abandoned malls I’ve photographed because it was so untouched from graffiti and vandalism which made it a joy to photograph,” he said.
The photos feature hauntingly empty storefronts, dead trees and debris scattered everywhere.
“It was surreal being inside of the abandoned mall,” Lawless said. “I felt like I was the last person alive and the world had ended. It was frightening but also very peaceful.”
WGN has also featured Lawless’ work at the Metro North Mall in Kansas City, and an abandoned “Land of Oz” park.
A few hours after this article was published, Matteson Village Administrator Brian Mitchell reached out to WGN with concerns that more people may try to break into the property as the Lincoln Mall photos and video go viral. He explained that the Village Board is worried for their safety.
Lawless did not have permission to take photos on the property, and there are “no trespassing” signs on every entrance, he said.
Meanwhile, the Tinley Park-based Mack Developers Inc. is working on a redevelopment plan for the mall. According to the Daily Southtown, the group has six months to prepare a redevelopment plan, which would need to be approved by Matteson’s Village Board.
Lawless released the following statement in light of Mitchell’s comments: “I reported the area that was opened with no signage to law enforcement, so they can have the property management secure the area so kids won’t wonder inside and get hurt. It is my understanding that they are sealing off that open section now. Over the years, I have routinely reported safety issues even crimes that have taken place at abandoned locations over the years in an effort to try to facilitate public safety and public awareness.”