111 PICS

Main Street, Exiled: Disappearing Downtowns

I want to explore downtown districts in decline across America, from those that are struggling to those with tumbleweeds blowing through. I want to show the history and the potential contained in neglected downtown areas.

The commercial downtown districts of American towns and cities have taken a beating ever since the advent of the shopping mall. And after malls arrived, the big-box superstores pounded more nails into the coffin.

The next step in this cycle is the rise of urban villages, such as Perkins Rowe in Baton Rouge, which are new working/living/shopping developments with an artificial downtown feel. Meanwhile, in the true historic downtown of Baton Rouge, many storefronts, work spaces, and living spaces lie empty.

I'm always fascinated to find an genuine Main Street, USA; I'll take it over a strip mall any day. But even more intriguing to me are the downtowns in jeopardy: the businesses just scraping along, the ones defying the odds by continuing to exist (like the hat shop that's been in Detroit for more than a century, the only shop on its street still open), the greasy spoons, the old man bars, the angular midcentury display-window entryways, the old neon signs.

On the main street of Phoenecia, in New York's Catskills vacation region, I made a beeline for the pharmacy at the end of the street, and was not disappointed: it had a creepy display of old plastic dolls in the window, and inside it still had the original wooden display cases along the walls, with antique medicine bottles behind the glass. Elsewhere in the store I found bendable hair roller sticks and and the Epilady hair removal device that I hadn't seen since the '80s, their packages faded and yellowed, but still for sale. My purchase (not the Epilady!) was placed in a crisp waxed paper bag.

It's like living, dying history at once. That's what I want to capture: the places stuck in time, the places that didn't make it, and the people who are still there.

I want to document such downtown districts in every state. I hope those who see the project will consider the sustainable option of using and adapting the neglected downtown spaces we have, rather than throwing up another new imitation on the outskirts of town.

Rank: 125



Please come to Main Street, Mesa AZ. The city has revamped it 3 times and it still is just old antique shops, pawn shops, and poorly maintained buildings in many places. And Mesa is a city of almost 500,000! But other Main Streets are awesome! You have my vote - now go shoot the shots!


Good luck with your idea! Please click on my name and vote for my idea too!


cool idea, lots of potential. i voted for ya, check out mine and leave a comment or vote for it too if you like it, good luck!


I like your idea!!

I just PIC'd you, so please stop by and check mine out! ... and leave a comment!

I'm a photographer who is trying to change the world, starting with my community.

Thank you!


Funny to mention NY. I have a home on Lake George, with a ghost town for a downtown. It's so sad.
I voted for you and hope you will return the favor. I am trying to reach a personal goal I set of 100 votes, 9 more.
Good Luck and I really hope you can shoot this regardless.


Collen, National Geographic did a similar story a few years back. Check it out -- can't remember the photographer's name. Voted for you. Check out my project to document issues in Zimbabwe.


If you do Main St. Old Forge, Pa. you get lots of beer and pizza


Thanks everybody. If you came here to vote, just sign in (easy peasy) and click on PIC IT, above!


Great idea, I gave you my PIC. Check out my idea and let me know what you think with a vote or a comment.


its a great idea...I voted for you please vote for me..


yay! good luck!!


Hey, Colleen. Interesting idea - you've got my PIC. We're trying to donate the $50k prize money to charities across the US. Please check our idea out and support us if you like it. Thanks and good luck!


Pic'd! good luck!


Good Luck!!


Hope you win.


I like your idea, check out mine and vote for me if you like it. Its about poverty and society in 3rd world countries and how they are controlled, devastated by their governments and western industrialized nations. http://tinyurl.com/chy79g


Here's to your big win! Your writing deserves it.


there you go

Submitted by

colleenkane colleenkane
Please install Flash to see the mini-map.