business as usual

This started off as a conversation about buying a length of cloth from Speers' drapery in Dungannon. It transpired the shop had closed without anyone really noticing. An outdoor exhibition, indoor exhibition and a book followed.

Shops and businesses, especially in small towns, play a unique role. Together they form linchpins that support an entire town. Remove one or two business from a street and within a few years that street can go to ruins. Speers’ shop closed without any fanfare or ceremony after decades of trading. No picture in the paper, no civic handskake, no send-off. Decades of trading, experience, service, knowledge and history gone without any record. It now lies derelict. We thought it might be interesting to celebrate and document the remaining businesses, especially during what transpired to be the deepest phase of the credit crunch.

The job was more or less split down the middle. Eugene did the logistics, approaching every family run business who had been trading for 20 years, getting them to agree to being photographed going about their business at a certain time on a certain day. A 3 week photo schedule was drawn up.

We spent 3 weeks photographing the businesses in the mornings between 9.30 and 11.30. One snapped while the other did some light 'art direction'. Each business was left with a questionnaire, this was to collect some background and history from each business. I processed the RAW files in the afternoon and typed, set and styled the copy.

Rather than stick all the pictures in some dusty old council building, we asked each business to display a photograph of another business in their front window. In theory turning the town centre into an outdoor exhibition. A 'route map' would guide people around the town showing them where the next picture hung.

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To keep costs low we used the same print for both 'town' and indoor exhibition. To give the impression of a mounted picture a light keyline was placed around each image. A small excerpt of the copy placed beneath each image (below). All pictures were printed at 54 cm x 34 cm, stuck onto 3mm mdf and laminated. The board was light enough to stick to the inside of a shop window using small double sided sticky tabs.

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28 businesses in total took part. The images hung in the shop windows for 2 weeks then all were collected together, framed and hung in the Bank House Hotel for 2 weeks leading up to Christmas.
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Finally, all the images and copy were pulled together into a book. Print-on-demand means very small, limited edition print runs are now economically viable. The book is now available in hardback and softback from Blurb.com.

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Written on: April 06 2009
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No picture in the paper, no civic handskake, no send-off. Decades of trading, experience, service, knowledge and history lost.

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