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Autumn 2008

“This is a personal project which has been going on for years. It emerged out of another one, “Roadside Britain”, which is just things of interest I catch sight of on the move. Some of these images were found that way too, but with a difference—I began to find that some of the pictures weren’t just about places but also about character.”

“We’re all used to retail; it’s something we are all comfortable with. And it is a great measure of how the world changes. Finding these fascinating places is a recognition of history, architecture and character. The thing is, these shopkeepers’ special knowledge is going to disappear with them. ”

“I grew up in Winchester in the 1960s. My mother was very keen on shopping and we were always going to shops like these: Winchester was that kind of town. This was before the march of the chain, when supermarkets were tiny and not out of town in retail parks. The only big shops were department stores and Winchester had three of them, all independent. The brand-new Sainsbury’s I went to as a child wouldn’t even qualify as a convenience store nowadays.”

“I remember being in department stores and being told to 'wait here, sit still', and feeling the temptation to run wild, have adventures. When you’re little you see everything from a low angle and so you always see the underneath of the racked-up clothes or whatever the stock is. I never did have those adventures but I can remember wanting to—the full-length mirrors reflecting the underworld…”

“My father is a travelling salesman, still working now at 79. In the 1950s he sold groceries, then furniture and clocks. He used to go to America and Europe, which was unusual then, and that feel for travel is in me too. I love moving.”

“I worry terribly about missing shops: they disappear so fast. So I am dependent on recommendations. Everyone knows an old hardware shop or shoe shop, but it’s the more obscure sort I worry about most: drapers, taxidermists, that kind of thing. A sense of loss is partly what drives me.”

“My bread-and-butter work is portraiture, for magazines mostly. My biggest influence is probably Martin Parr, who taught me at college. I also like Terry Frost and Franco Fontana. But the key reference would have to be the photographer Paul Graham and his seminal work “A1”. And although I’m not really influenced by painting, I used to have some framed Hopper prints on my wall. That feeling of enclosed space and nostalgia does play a part in my work.”

“I recently did an electrical-accessories shop in Sidcup, just off the A2, and from the floor to the ceiling there were old plugs and lengths of flex. There was something about the look of the place and the way the shopkeeper had everything to hand, an incredible stock of old lightbulbs and batteries and all that. Very compelling, that interior. I loved being in there.  I see the shops and the people as an indivisible whole.”

“And there’s nothing so much fun as a shop that’s not open, on half-day closing. When you find one of those, you know you’re in the right place. I make a note of it and come back when I’m next passing through the area.”

“Do I think we’re a nation of shopkeepers, in Napoleon’s phrase? No, not any more. But we once were. Tesco and the internet have turned us into a nation of shoppers, which is a different thing altogether.” ~ NICK COLEMAN

WYE GARAGE, LLANGURIG, POWYS, WALES
"Roy Thomas moved from Bristol over 15 years ago to operate this shop and petrol station on one of the main roads running through this remote area of mid-Wales. The shop also sells fruit and veg and a selection of pot plants. It is set several feet below road level, the result of new road surfaces being placed on top of old ones. For a number of years between the wars, the garage supplied electricity for the neighbouring village by means of a generator in an outbuilding"

HAMPTON’S FINE QUALITY MENSWEAR, BEXHILL-ON-SEA, EAST SUSSEX
"Hampton’s opened in 1907. This is David Dunbar, who worked in the shop for years but has now retired. Originally the outfitters had a tailoring facility on the floor above. Like the corset specialist Elizabeth, Hampton’s attracts customers from surrounding towns as the competition either retires or closes down"

LOUI’S CAFF, BRITTON FERRY, SOUTH WALES
"This café no longer occupies its spot beneath the elevated road link between the M4 and Swansea: it’s now a travellers’ site. This kind of roadside architecture is under continual threat in the name of progress. Having enjoyed a cooked breakfast, I managed to persuade the lady running the café to be in my photograph. Sadly, I do not know her name. She could be Loui, I suppose"

H. & S.J. ROWAN, SECONDHAND BOOKSHOP, BOSCOMBE, BOURNEMOUTH, DORSET
"Mr Rowan has been in this part of Bournemouth for many years and specialises in buying and selling maps and books—antiquarian, arts, aviation, military history, atlases and local interest. Like all good dealers, he advertises in local papers offering to visit people’s homes to view books for sale"

ELIZABETH, CORSET SPECIALIST, BEXHILL-ON-SEA, EAST SUSSEX
"Elizabeth has been in Bexhill-on-Sea for more than 60 years, although the current owner Emily Poyos (seated) has been in charge for less than a decade. In the background are Emily’s colleagues Jenny Turner (left) and Diane Wilkins. The shop’s slogan is 'Where age is an advantage', so it’s no wonder they attract a clientele from far and wide"

H.E. HARRINGTON, HARDWARE AND IRONMONGERS, BROADSTAIRS, KENT
"This hardware store and ironmongers was originally set up by Frank Dobbs in 1890 before becoming H.E. Harrington in 1927. It has been in the ownership of the Fairlea family since 1956. Jim Fairlea (pictured) runs the shop with his twin brother Henry and still operates a delivery service for local customers."

BOSUN’S CAFÉ, WORTHING, WEST SUSSEX
"This is the sister of the chef in this popular café near the beach. It is the oldest café in Worthing, having been there since 1927, and before that it was a bicycle shop. The current owner has been in charge for eight years and is proud that all the food is freshly prepared. If you want cod and chips, you need to go to the fishmongers round the corner before returning to Bosun’s where it will be battered and served with freshly cooked chips"

T.H. JONES, DRAPERS AND OUTFITTERS, TREGARON, CEREDIGION, WALES
"Tom Jones has been running this drapers and outfitters, both gents’ and ladies’, since the late 1950s. It’s in Tregaron, the smallest town in Ceredigion and once a meeting place for 19th-century drovers. Given that the shop is on the edge of town, I was impressed with the variety of stock available. In the photograph, Tom is replacing a pin in his collar—the sign of a proper outfitter: the pin is used for adjustments when fitting a client"

PERCY HORNE, BARBER’S, PORTSWOOD, SOUTHAMPTON, HAMPSHIRE
"Percy Horne had been running his barber’s for 17 years, but knew it would not last much longer—it was the last shop in a small parade near the university. The entire block, including the housing above, was soon to be developed to provide accommodation for the students, and Percy had decided to retire when this happened"

JOE’S TELEVISION, AUDIO, VIDEO, DVD, REPAIRS, CLAPHAM, SOUTH LONDON
"Peter actually runs the lock-up next door, selling various secondhand items, but in Joe’s absence, Peter looks after Joe’s shop as well. Joe’s is situated just off Clapham High Street, and you wonder how much longer such a place can remain in business. The problem is not simply proximity to such a competitive and relatively upmarket shopping area, but also the success of eBay"

POWELL’S BAKERY, POPLAR, EAST LONDON
"Powell’s was part of a small chain around the Isle of Dogs area of East London—now unfortunately all gone. One of the shops baked the bread, which was then distributed around the others. When people look at Molly in my portfolio, they comment that it’s a shame there is so little stock. I have to point out that the picture was taken after lunch—there’s not much left on the shelves because she’s had a good day"

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