June 26, 2022
Small traditional businesses, the old beating hearts of our cities, are slowly but surely dying. Competed for decades by small, medium or large surface where we only talk to robots, by franchised brands where relocated managers follow one another, or worse: by online platforms that deliver to relay points or by their bicycle slave service, most of them did not resist. Who still buys their can of paint or their nails at the local hardware store? Her ribbons and buttons at the haberdashery? Who has their watch repaired at the watchmaker? Phone shops are popping up on every street corner. In the trendy centers of the big cities where bike repairers have replaced garages and gentrification has created new small ecological and very expensive local shops. The grocers of yesteryear have been replaced by convenience stores and high-end caterers, the regular bistros are being converted into work-friendly cafés with wifi.
All this is hardly new: Old Paris is no more (the shape of a city change faster, alas! than the heart of a mortal!) already wrote Baudelaire and the history of photography is intimately linked to urban changes, from Marville to Brassaï via Atget, the pioneer of Parisian street photography. When I walk in Paris, his images accompany me. Some old businesses resist their final disappearance like great old men, almost ghosts. Whether they are tagged, half demolished, barely recognizable, their facades haunt the line of the streets like so many reminders of what were long places of exchange and meeting. Decrepit as they are, these facades with faded signs compose grimoires loaded with memory, weathered by time: eminently photogenic.