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Mohammed Zahauri, Tailor, was on Laugaveg 82 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas
Mohammed Zahauri, Tailor, was on Laugaveg 82 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas
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In Portraits: An Older Era Guarded By Reykjavik's Local Shop Owners

Picture of Camille Buckley
Updated: 21 September 2017

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.

Jón Sæmundur of DEAD Gallery/Studio at Laugavegur 29 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Jón Sæmundur of DEAD Gallery/Studio at Laugavegur 29 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

“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.”

Kai, Borgarhjól, Hverfisgata 50 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Kai, Borgarhjól, Hverfisgata 50 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Eggert Jóhannsson, Eggert Feldskeri, Skólavorðustíg 50 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Eggert Jóhannsson, Eggert Feldskeri, Skólavorðustíg 50 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Jörmundur Ingi Hansen, Fatamarkaður Jörmundur, Laugaveg 25 in cellar | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Jörmundur Ingi Hansen, Fatamarkaður Jörmundur, Laugavegur 25 in cellar | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Dóra Jónsdóttir, Gullkistan, Frakkastíg 10 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Dóra Jónsdóttir, Gullkistan, Frakkastíg 10 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

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.

Helga and Orrí, Orri Finn Jewelry, Skólavorðustíg 17a | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Helga and Orrí, Orri Finn Jewelry, Skólavorðustíg 17a | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Fabio Del Percio, Hver Design, Bergstaðastraeti 10a | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Fabio Del Percio, Hver Design, Bergstaðastraeti 10a | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Jóhanna Harðardóttir, Texilline, was on Laugaveg 101 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Jóhanna Harðardóttir, Texilline, was on Laugavegur 101 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Helgi Sigurðsson, Úrsmiður Helgi Sigurðsson, was on Skólavorðustíg 3 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Helgi Sigurðsson, Úrsmiður Helgi Sigurðsson, was on Skólavorðustíg 3 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

“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.

Marta Kjartansdóttir, Reykjavik Ink, Frakkastígur | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Marta Kjartansdóttir, Reykjavik Ink, Frakkastígur | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Guðrún, Lifstykkjabuðin, Laugaveg 82 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Guðrún, Lifstykkjabuðin, Laugavegur 82 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Valdi, Geisladiskabúð Valda, Laugaveg 64-entered at Vitastígur | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Valdi, Geisladiskabúð Valda, Laugaveg 64-entered at Vitastígur | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Einar Áugst Guðjónsson, Fornbókabuðin, Klappastíg 25 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Einar Áugst Guðjónsson, Fornbókabuðin, Klappastíg 25 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Terry Davos, Skyrta, was on Laugaveg 69 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Terry Davos, Skyrta, was on Laugavegur 69 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

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.

Einar Arnarsson, Hókus Pókus, Laugaveg 69 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Einar Arnarsson, Hókus Pókus, Laugavegur 69 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Ann Kristín Magnúsdóttir, Kjólar og Konfekt, Laugaveg 92 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Ann Kristín Magnúsdóttir, Kjólar og Konfekt, Laugavegur 92 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Jónas R. Jónsson, Fiðluviðgerðir Jónas R. Jónsson, Skólavorðustíg 16 entered through Oðinsgata | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Jónas R. Jónsson, Fiðluviðgerðir Jónas R. Jónsson, Skólavorðustíg 16 entered through Oðinsgata | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Mohammed Zahauri, Tailor, was on Laugaveg 82 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Mohammed Zahauri, Tailor, was on Laugavegur 82 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Sigriður Sigurjónsdóttir, Spark Design Space, was on Klapparstíg 33 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Sigriður Sigurjónsdóttir, Spark Design Space, was on Klapparstíg 33 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Sigriður Gunnarsdóttir, Bókabúðin Sjónarlind, Skólavorðustíg 7 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

Sigriður Gunnarsdóttir, Bókabúðin Sjónarlind, Skólavorðustíg 7 | Courtesy of Helga Nina Aas

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