Brain Pickings

Store Front: New York’s Disappearing Face

by

Last week, we watched a poignant short documentary about how one British barber is handling the slow demise of his business, driven by the changing face of the modern city. His was one of many voices that reflect the bittersweet aftertaste as “progress” as it touches, and invariably changes, commerce and community. In Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, photographer duo James and Karla Murray bring the same lens of retrostalgia to New York City’s morphing landscape of mom-and-pop shops. For eight years, the Murrays shot the facades of hundred of stores, more than half of which are now gone.

From the retrotastic typographic signage to the beautiful vintage color schemes, these storefronts are priceless time-capsules of an era as faded as their paint coats, haunting ghosts caught in the machine of progress.

Ideal Hoisery, Grand Street at Ludlow, Manhattan (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Katy's Candy Store, Tompkins Avenue near Vernon Avenue, Brooklyn (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Giovani Esposito & Sons Pork Shop, Ninth Avenue at West 39th Street, Manhattan (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Ideal Dinettes, Knickerbocker Avenue near DeKalb Avenue, Brooklyn (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Maries Beauty Lounge, Morris Park Avenue near Haight Avenue, The Bronx (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

We were shooting graffiti around the five boroughs and were always into the letters of graffiti, so we started to notice these signs have a lot of different interesting fonts. And we liked the stores themselves, but we’d come back and shoot the walls, because in graffiti, a lot of the walls are painted over and over, and we noticed the stores were gone.” ~ Jim Murphy

Brand's Wine & Liquors, West 145th Street near Broadway, Manhattan (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Walters Hardware Co., Broadway near 36th Street, Queens (2006)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Erney's Bike Shop, East 17th Street near Third Avenue, Manhattan (2003)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Miller's for Prescriptions, Broad Street near Cedar Street, Staten Island (2005)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Nissan Seafood Wholesale, Madison Street at Catherine Street, Manhattan (2005)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Store Front is equal parts design candy, feat of documentary photography, and visual study in urbanism. For more on the project, Newsweek has a fantastic audio slideshow, featuring wonderful interviews with some of the store owners and the Murrays themselves.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

Share on Tumblr