"Last Days of Toys R Us", 2019 | Joanna Kulesza & Andy Sarjahani

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Joanna Kulesza is a documentary and portrait photographer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked with or been featured in The New York Times, VICE, Vogue Italia, AARP, Bloomberg and the ACLU, and was a production assistant on the 2016 award-winning documentary film Jackson.

Andy Sarjahani is an East Tennessee based documentary filmmaker and photographer. As the son of an Iranian immigrant that grew up in the Ozarks of Arkansas, he has particular interest in exploring the nuances of rural America and the seemingly unnatural stark juxtapositions that sometimes present themselves in our day-to-day lives.

We spoke to Andy and Joanna about their collaborative project.

Last summer, Toys ‘R’ Us officially joined Circuit City, Blockbuster, and RadioShack on the growing list of now-extinct brick-and-mortar retail stores that were fixtures of 1980s and 90s America. Amazon’s tidal wave has wiped them out one by one, with more inevitably to come. Toys ‘R’ Us feels a little different, though, than all the rest. For so many of us, it was always some kind of temporary, wondrous escape.

’Joanna Kulesza and I are fascinated with dying retail in the Amazon era, so we decided to document the last days of this nostalgic wonderland. The juxtapositions in a giant closing toy store are fascinating and surreal: caution tape, barren aisles, and 70% off signs with giant displays of the Monopoly man. The paint was dated and peeling, and the playful signage hung over barren floors stained and cracked by years of existence. A picture of Geoffrey the Giraffe overlooked a baby section devoid of everything except shelves—and, of course, directions on how and why you should purchase the shelves at a highly discounted rate.’ - Andy Sarjahani

If you’d like to see more of Joanna’s and Andy’s work, visit http://www.joannakulesza.com/ https://www.andysarjahani.com/ https://vimeo.com/andysarjahani

All images and text © Joanna Kulesza and Andy Sarjahani