As Reykjavik undergoes rapid change, a local photographer, Helga Nina Aas, captures the uniqueness of Reykjavik’s shopkeepers. Aas was prompted to begin the series of portraits during the summer of 2015 when she became shocked by the incoming chain stores overtaking the local shop owners in the popular shopping area of downtown.
“I knew at that moment,” she recalled, “that I had to photograph our shopkeepers before they disappeared and my city as I knew it was no more and had no more distinction than any other city that allows commercial chains to smother the city’s individuality.”
While Reykjavik is certainly not the only city facing similar issues and changes, it is especially poignant in such a small town. These photographs were taken between September 2015 and September 2016. During this time, 28% of the shopkeepers had to close shop and another 20% on the verge of closing due to the high rental costs and the ability of chain stores to offer more for less. A better-monitored regulation framework for the number of particular types of stores would be of benefit in this case, and in similar cases in many other cities.
“Our downtown that has always had funky homegrown stores, designers, little bookstores, jewelry shops, [and] coffee shops; you knew the faces that you would meet, you knew them by name and they knew your face and you had been coming there for years for their service, their advice, and kindness,” Aas said.
The photographic series, prompted out of a pending sense of loss, asks many relevant questions about cultural preservation, sustainable tourism, and the future of small businesses.