35mm · Film photography · Photography

Empty shops

Photographically, I find that empty shopfronts can be an appealing subject. There’s something there, some story around how the situation came to be, a small piece of history turning over, that I find interesting.

I don’t know what this shop used to be when it was still trading, although I expect it was a clothing store – that low shelf looks made for a display of manequins. But now it stands empty, waiting for a new tenant, a new business, new hopes of success and flourishing trade, a shop full of customers exited over the wares and eager to spend their hard-earned cash on what they find.

But for now it sits empty, the afternon sun illuminating the dusty interior, a void waiting to be filled. Paint has begun to peel on the exterior facade and, in a telling sign of the times, a discarded face mask lies raggedly on the floor before the entrance, taunting the reflection in the door glass of a rubbish bin just across the street.

Sadly it seems that fallen businesses like this are all too common nowadays, ever since the 2007/8 financial crash in fact. Enterprises that, for some reason or other, couldn’t survive and now stand empty, or replaced by discount shops, nail bars, vaping stores, or retail branches of one of a multitude of charitable organisations. I’d love for a thriving retail industry to return – not just the identikit retail chains that now seem to populate every town and city, but an interesting range of independent and interesting stores, the sort that really draw people to a place, that make you want to travel to other towns where they have new and fascinating retailers different to the ones at home. I’m not sure it will happen – I think online shopping may have dealt a terminal blow – but I can hope.

Vacant property

Olympus 35 RC & Ilford FP4+. Ilfotec DD-X 1+4 10mins @ 20°.

Taken on 11 May 2022


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