Many retailers in The UK (large and small) have now closed permanently due to the effects of the coronavirus lockdown. An estimated 20,000 stores will be gone by the end of the year, according to figures from the Centre for Retail Research, a massive jump on the 4,547 that closed in 2019. Job losses in the retail sector are estimated to exceed 230,000. Every street has always had a few closed shops with their windows whitewashed but as suggested by these figures, Covid 19 seems to have caused them to multiply, just like the virus itself. I really became aware of how many there were when I went back into the shopping areas near me after not visiting for a few weeks. I also started noticing how each window is unique, the swirls and brush marks varying wildly, sometimes they look like the person applying them was angry at the time, others are more considered almost as though they have thought about the outcome and what passers-by will think. Some have numbers and meaningless letters, or words etched into them.
There are many closed shops that have simply pulled down the shutters or put in a big TO LET sign however I felt these painted windows with their swirls, lines and marks best represent the economic fragmentation and change on the High Streets of the UK. Each photograph represents a business that has closed, probably never to re-open. Rather than simply photographing all the empty shops I wanted to show these changes in a more abstract (and hopefully memorable) way – I have always loved the photography of Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan and there was some of their work and style in in my mind when I started photographing these windows and the changes and turmoil they represent.
Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom as some windows had the lights glowing behind them as new owners looked to start afresh, it will certainly be interesting to see how our city centres look in the coming months and years.