For this post I thought I’d show some of images I’ve taken for a long term project I’m working on. The recession has hit British high streets very hard and it has not taken long for many shops, including those from major chains, to close. These empty spaces are usually stripped bare and ‘sanitised’ so they can be put up for let. As the recession has worsened I have noticed that newly emptied shops are being left in a worse condition. It is almost as if the owners grabbed all they could and made a run for it.
Whenever I visit a town or city I’m always look for the tell-tale ‘To Let’ signs and making a beeline for the abandoned shops. The spaces are usually left in darkness and the only light is from the street. This makes capturing the images tricky as I need to use a long exposure and a steady hand.
I find the spaces eerie and they remind me of scenes from post-holocaust movies where disasters have swept through an area. The bare walls and muted colours create a sense of loneliness and abandonment. Some of the shops have been stripped right down with even the carpets removed but the majority are left with magnolia walls and dark blue carpets. A scant few have traces that leave clues to their previous existence and the images shown here are amongst those.
So far I have managed to take pictures of over 80 empty shops in three locations, Shrewsbury, Wrexham and Liverpool. There is definitely a pattern in where these spaces will be found. In busy towns, like Shrewsbury, the main street there is little sign of the recession but if you step down any side street you can easily find empty shops. In smaller towns or less affluent areas the closures are far more obvious. I was shocked by how many empty shops I could photograph in the main shopping area of Wrexham, it felt like every other shop was closed.
Despite the implications of these empty spaces I think each of these images has a calm beauty about them. They give an opportunity to see everyday spaces in a completely different way. As a photographer I have found it very easy to take these pictures without being challenged by members of the public or security personnel. If the shops had been occupied I have no doubt that I would have been moved along in a brisk manner and told to keep away.
I would like to think that we are near the very bottom of the second dip of this recession and that things can’t get any worse. I have returned to some of the shops to see what condition they are in and have seen signs that work is being done inside them for new tenants.
The final image I’m sharing with you may not look like much but perhaps there is hope that the British high street can be saved. there is still life in these empty spaces and new shops will hopefully step up to take the places of those that fell.