“London Shop Fronts” – Emily Webber at 300 Seconds

300 Seconds logo300 Seconds is a new event in London to provide more speaking opportunities for women to talk about interesting geeky things. I’ve been blogging my notes of the evening, and I’ve saved the best until last. You can also download the full set — including four exclusive blog posts — as a free ebook for your Kindle, iPhone/iPad or as a PDF.

“London Shop Fronts” – Emily Webber

Emily Webber from the Government Digital Service delivered my favourite talk of the evening. It wasn’t about her work, but about her hobby, documenting quirky shop fronts around London.

London Shop Fronts website

London Shop Fronts website

She beautifully described the way that they document changes in London and in society — pointing out, for example, that most launderettes seem to have a design and typography style that dates from before washing machines were ubiquitous in the home. It is like whatever made a launderette look like one got frozen in time at the point they became less important.

She described her site as “a collection and obsession”, and half-joked “I’ve read a bit about collecting and I won’t go into the psychological problems it can indicate.” He typed as he shuffled past his thousands of CDs clogging up the living room that he never plays anymore.

Emily described them as the backdrop of the everyday, saying they define the area you are in. London has a rich history, and these shop fronts are the products of this history, sometimes showing multiple layers. She pointed out one photo in particular, of a shop front that started off as an off licence and which now features tiny little holes where the shop also runs mini cabs, a nail bar and a hairdressers.

Emily’s project reminded me of Katherine Green’s photo-record of some of the older shops that exist on Wood Street in Walthamstow, where I used to live. Katherine got some of the longest-serving shop owners on the street to pose in their businesses, nearly all of which represented a type of shop that is rapidly disappearing. In fact, in the 6 or so years since the project, at least two of the businesses have folded, and the characters that ran them have disappeared from the local community.

Katherine Green butcher photo

This shop has closed since Katherine’s Wood Street project

Mind you, we do still have a 99p store that also doubles up as a Bible and religious text shop, which has got to be pretty rare. And we have a Viking Store now.

Emily Webber’s London Shop Fronts site has apparently nearly 2,000 picture now, classified into specific types, and looks like the kind of place you could lose hours of internet time to.

300 Seconds ebook coverThis is one of a series of blog posts about 300 Seconds. You can download all of my notes — including four blog posts exclusive to the book — for free for your Kindle, iPhone/iPad or as a PDF.


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