My association with Photobook Store and Martin Amis go back the best part of a decade now.
I was a customer long before I began contributing to the now defunct magazine.
In those early days he used to invite contributions, and it seemed the perfect way for me to start sharing my passion and telling the world about the artists and books that I was in love with, but which - at the time - few others seemed aware of.
So, with his good grace, that’s what I did - whether the world cared or not (nothing much has changed).
I have met him briefly only once (at an early London Offprint), we have never even spoken on the phone.
I sent him my pieces, he tolerated my dodgy always hurried grammar (always too much else to do) and to his credit, he posted most of them.
I’m not a photographer (in any professional sense), or a publisher (although I have been encouraged to consider it).
I am, however a collector and in this respect, I do seem to have garnered some credibility.
So with this in mind and with no obligation or bias, I feel more than happy to say that Amis’ portraits of the desolate, broken and abandoned businesses that line the high streets of provincial towns in the corner of South East England, close to his home, form one of the most socially relevant photo books to have been released in recent years.
Released by his own publishing imprint, Photo Editions and with another stunning design by Tom Booth Woodger, Closed has as almost utilitarian feel to it, featuring simple heavy boards and spiral binding which gives it the feeling of an archival real estate document.
The layout is pared back and elegantly minimal. Each crisp monochrome image receives its own page and thanks to the layout and design can be viewed in its unrestricted entirety.
This cancerous dissolution of our high streets and local shops, which undoubtedly started way back in the seventies and eighties with the appearance of out of town American style malls, which gathered all our favourite brands and eateries under one gloriously anonymous air conditioned umbrella of building, was then accelerated with the rise of the simplicity and ease of online shopping, and ultimately compounded by the effects of Brexit and eighteen months of Covid lockdowns.
As someone who works in central London, there is an ominous portent between the covers of Closed.
Whilst it is true that many of the hoardings and empty spaces are slowly returning to life within the capital, the shift in the way we now work means that there are palpable changes visible.
However, for better or worse, we are social beings and whilst it may suit many to work from home (after all the benefits are many) all will seem fine until, for example the jobs begin to disappear to people who can sit at home in more “cost effective” parts of the world, and public transport becomes unaffordable (and with reduced services) because only a fraction of people are using them, or restaurants and bars are forced to raise their prices to survive because all the lunchtime and midweek trade has evaporated.
Of course we will adapt, we have no choice. Many say that the pandemic merely hit a fast forward button and we have arrived at a destination that was preordained.
One thing is for sure is that as we gaze at Amis’ beautifully captured photographs of our economy’s fallen soldiers, much of what we are looking at is the result of the consumer’s choice and the inevitable march of “progress”.
I guess we should be careful what we wish for.
Closed by Martin Amis is published by Photo Editions in an edition of 600 copies.
There is also a special edition of 50 signed slipcased copies with an original print.