Caroline Kraus

Photo credit: Caroline Kraus
Photo credit: Caroline Kraus

Retail Remnants 


24” x 36” each




My photographic work explores the relationship between solidity and mirage. Battling beauty and distortion. I find and entwine the contrast in life.

With influences as diverse as Nan Goldin, David Lachapelle, Joel-Peter Witkin & Eugene Atget, new insights are generated from both stark truth and surrealistic madness. Since adolescence I have been fascinated by the ever-changing human condition; the enchanting cycles of love, loss, truth & self. Our own distorted views vs. the world’s harsher reflection. The images printed into our body’s memory and the morphing of the recollection itself has always left me looking for the stories in between truth and personal narrative. The viewer is challenged to follow the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own “cannibal” and “civilized” selves.




Living in the same city for most of my life, I find remnants around every corner. Remnants of my childhood playground where a Walgreens now stands. Remnants of families that once owned small businesses in stripmalls that have since been demolished for Walmart to sit wide.

My generation (a kid of the 80’s) was hopping from the DQ to the Hallmark store to the candy shop all in one strip mall or connected storefronts. Mom would peruse at the modest sized grocery as we kids explored each small family owned business with our little allowance given every week.

Over a 7-year period, that strip mall gave way to “for lease” signs as the new showy strip of stones was being built directly across the street. Windows began to go empty. First the Chinese food place. Then the pizza place. The hardware store, the candy shop, then the modestly sized grocer all went dark as the new, larger building soared over and shadowed the now dead parking lot.

Those small business owners disintegrated into the background with their dilapidated building. It saddened and angered me to see the hustle on the wrong side of the street. Where my strip mall of memories was left in shambles forgotten and hidden behind the SUV’s.

The remnants of retail and small business culture vibrate deep within me, as my family owns two small businesses. We understand the drive and the heart-of-steel it takes to open everyday. We carry the stress of searching for funding without a big name backer. We embrace the beauty that comes from family and communal support. We also understand for too many people, these longs days spent fighting can be demolished overnight.

I have been documenting the run-down strip malls and store fronts, trying to find the ghosts. The souls of the people that once spent, consumed, and supported families on these grounds. I want to see the life that was once there. The man who ran the hardware store with hair whiter than snow, the groups of kids hanging in huddles, the pizza proprietor with the jolly laugh, always covered in flour. I want to see them all again.

I found a way to create a surreal street photography essay through combining images of what is and what was.