No Future In Your Store Frontin’.


Husband-and-wife photography team James T. & Karla L. Murray give detailed, even affectionate, attention to the parts of New York City that most people merely dismiss as eyesores. In their earlier books, Broken Windows: Graffiti NYC and Burning New York, they recorded the craft of the aerosol artist, recording not only their masterworks but their words and intentions.

In their new volume, Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, they document the most vulnerable structures in the urban landscape’s topography: The small, typically family-owned, street-level proprietorship. Historically, notes the web site, not only did these shopkeepers add life and vitality to, and in real ways bind together, these neighborhoods. As well, the corner stores served as economic stepping stones for “New York’s early immigrant population, a wild mix of Irish, Germans, Jews, Italians, Poles, Eastern Europeans and later Hispanics and Chinese.”

D. D’Auria and Sons Pork Store is a typical example. Founded in 1938, set in the Belmont section of the Bronx—that borough’s Little Italy—it closed in 2007, three years after the above photo was made. Subsequently, and in an ironic reordering of community priorities, a cell phone store replaced it. Then, says Karla, “that went out of business last year, and now the space is empty.”

Add to the mix whale-like box stores, gentrification, the skyrocketing cost of NYC real estate, and a host of other potent, seemingly random forces, and what you have in these small businesses, literally, is a dying way of life. Meanwhile, Jim and Karla Murray race to visually preserve the last of their spaces, using their “trusty old Canon 35mm film camera,” itself now a relic, to capture the look, character, color, and texture of the places where our great city was, in many senses, built.

Jim & Karla Murray are exhibiting selections from their Store Front photos at the Brooklyn Historical Society (128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, NY; 718-222-4111) through March 29. As well, they’re guests today on NONFICTION, my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, this afternoon, Friday, March 6, at 2 pm ET.

You can hear this thoughtful and creative couple’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state area, check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.


1 comment so far ↓

#1 Q. on 03.10.09 at 6:10 am

Looks like a great book, reminds me of the immigrant stores here in my city Rotterdam. Unfortunately the street most famous for it is on the list for a complete renovation. The city government wants to ‘clean up’, basically they want gentrification and the original people transported to some soulless neighborhood in the outskirts. A shame…

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