Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Retail ruinporn

Once there were shoes
London, ON
January 2021
This photo originally shared on Instagram

I am not an urban explorer.

I do not have the courage to walk into an empty or otherwise abandoned building and take photos inside. I have a fear of trespassing or of otherwise breaking the law. And, of course, getting caught. It isn't something I'd ever want to have to explain to my wife and kids. Or to myself.

But a part of me looks at so-called ruinporn pics taken by those who practice urbex with a sense of wistful jealousy. I'd love the opportunity to shoot in the shadows of what we've lost, or are still losing, but I just don't have the guts.

Consider this scene my Plan B, where I simply stand outside and shoot through the window. This particular shot called to me as I drove to a nearby store to pick up our food order. As the pandemic decimates the economy, it is redrawing the very face of the communities we call home. Empty storefronts dot the landscape, gap-toothed reminders of what we've lost so far, and what else awaits us in the dark months ahead.

Scenes like this gnaw at me for many reasons, but it's the dichotomy that hurts the most. They stand in the shadows of empty streets and parking lots, silently ignored by the few of us still around to notice. Yet their absence is anything but silent for those who once worked here. Whose careers and lives revolved around these now-forgotten places.

Where they all went is anyone's guess. Somewhere, countless people have had their lives completely upended, yet the rest of us continue on, blithely unaware of their turmoil. We may spend a second or two wondering about the scarred, empty storefront before we continue on our way. Or we may not notice at all.

It strikes me as sadness on top of sadness. For those who have lost so much already deserve more than a shrug from strangers. We all deserve better connections to those who once made our communities somewhat more whole. And could do so again, if someone has the courage to rebuild.

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