The popular blog Shopfront Elegy, by Vici MacDonald, features an ever-growing collection of images of commercial facades, both old and new.
The shopfront designs range from the very mundane to the incredibly beautiful, from intricate hand-painted lettering to stark, functional signage. While some are relatively new, the majority are old and outmoded. Decaying and defunct, they are relics of a bygone era.
Created by the art director and editor Vici MacDonald, the blog is revealing of her fascination with typography, an interest which she began to nurture as a young art student. She recounts the bafflement of a photography tutor when she presented a slide show consisting of her photographs of “crappy old shopfronts”, focusing on bits of text and lettering on decaying signs:
“He simply couldn’t understand why anyone would bother with such boring images, and suspected I was taking the mick.I, meanwhile, was genuinely surprised that he couldn’t see the beauty in these fragments of communication: formal compositions of shape and colour, constructed from words which lent them a narrative. To me, they were compelling urban tales which deserved noticing and recording”.
Undeterred, she turned her attention to photographing commercial premises in the late 1990s, and Shopfront Elegy was born. In 2013 she collaborated with the poet Tamar Yoseloff to create Formerly, a book of poetry about disappearing London, written in response to fourteen of MacDonald’s images.
Below is a selection of MacDonald’s images featuring barbershops and hair salons:
“To me, they were compelling urban tales which deserved noticing and recording”