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Store Front (Mini) - The Disappearing Face of New York Hardcover – January 28, 2011

4.9 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

From The New York Times Book Review (April 5, 2009): For those who think modernization is always a virtue, the demise of these relics may be a good thing. For me, it marks the end of an era of sign painting and storefront innocence. Which is why my eyes widened when I saw James T. Murray and Karla L. Murray s..... STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face of New York..... The Murrays, authors of two books on graffiti art, Broken Windows and Burning New York, have been photographing storefronts for more than eight years, and in this book they employ large-scale horizontal pages (and a few gatefolds) as they track their odyssey from the Lower East Side to Harlem to the Bronx, from Brooklyn to Queens to Staten Island. If you're at all interested in the passing cityscape, this book is a documentary mother lode; if you're happy to see these joints disappear, it might at least kindle appreciation for them. The Murrays photographs, however, do not romanticize these not very picturesque locales. The images are bright and crisp, though most of what the authors photographed was dingy and covered with graffiti; quite a few fronts and signs were falling apart or grungy to begin with. Yet it is in this state of decay that the stores hold a curious fascination indeed, a raw beauty for anyone concerned with vernacular design. I was particularly taken with the Lower East Side remnants that are slowly being squeezed out by hip restaurants and shops. Zelig Blumenthal's religious articles store, on Essex Street, appears not to have changed since my grandparents lived nearby. The Hebrew lettering on the window is as clean as it was back then. Meanwhile, at Rabbi M. Eisenbach's shop, the painted signs seem to be fading. Beny's Authorized Sales and Service, which sells fine jewelry, electric shavers, lighters, pens, is not just a throwback; it also exhibits a totally alien aesthetic compared with that of most stores today. Store Front is not mired in nostalgia. Take the photograph of the (now closed ) Jade Mountain Restaurant, on Second Avenue near 12th Street, where I ate cheap Chinese food as a teenager. It is not a storefront I get misty-eyed seeing again; even the so-called chop-suey-style sign lettering does not make me long for what's lost. But it's part of a larger mosaic that was (and is) New York s retail consumer culture. The book is also a study of urban migration, featuring Jewish delis and Italian latticini freschi stores downtown, Hispanic bodegas and Irish bars uptown, and a white-bread Howard Johnson's in Midtown (now gone). There are also photos of single blocks, with various contrasting storefronts tightly packed next to one another, that resemble a third-world market. Downtown is much more alluring than uptown but maybe that's because I was raised downtown. --Steven Heller for The New York Times. --The New York Times Book Review --New York Times

From Publishers Weekly (March 7, 2011): Anyone who loves the compact, diverse small businesses that are a part of urban living will be fascinated with the new, compact version of this labor of love from the Murrays (Burning New York). The authors, who have been working on this project for eight years, are shocked by the rapid changes to their chosen subject; changes to zoning, rent, and families have contributed to a rapid loss of the sorts of small businesses showcased here, in vivid photos shot on 35mm film. The Murrays divide their book into five chapters, one for each borough, and include neighborhood maps and brief histories. Photographs are accompanied by their own narratives or those of business owners, providing details about former locations, family history, products on display, and more. Manhattan, home to many of the institutions, buildings, and diverse neighborhoods that have made New York famous, occupies nearly half of the book. Readers will feel an immediate nostalgia for --Publishers Weekly

From Bookforum (Vol. 1 Issue 4): One of the period's most successful New York books- an evergreen subgenre- STORE FRONT demonstrated the paradoxical power of digital photo editing to alter actual views in order for us to see more clearly what is actually there. --Bookforum

About the Author

James and Karla Murray have lectured extensively on the plight of New York City's mom and pop stores at venues including The New York Public Library, The Brooklyn Historical Society, The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Their Store Front photography has appeared in global publications including The New Yorker, Saveur, Rolling Stone (Germany), Print Magazine, Stern, Lufthansa, Die Zeit, and Der Spiegel. They have exhibited their photographs at the New York Historical Society and the Brooklyn Historical Society, and their work is included in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the New York Public Library, and the Brooklyn Historical Society. They are represented by Clic Gallery in New York City, East Hampton NY, Cannes and St. Barthelemy, FWI. They are also represented by Fotogalerie Im Blauen Haus in Munich, Germany. James and Karla live in New York City and Miami with their dog Hudson.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gingko Press; Mini edition (January 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584234075
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584234074
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 1.2 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #257,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Well, it was open last week, I went in and bought something" A familiar thought if you live in a city, large or small, across the Nation and discover that the store that had been there for decades is now closed: probably for good. James and Karla Murray have done us all a favor by capturing, for ever, the changing store front scene in New York. Amazingly, as mentioned in their introduction, almost a third of the stores in the book have closed!

The 220 photos (with some repeated in four huge fold-outs) cover the five boroughs with each getting a simplified street map and the relevant neighborhood indicated, some copy provides background to the name and how the area originated. What gives the book a lift though is the frequent addition of interviews with the storeowners who provide insights about the history of their premises and the products they sell.

All the photos are straight on shots of the store fronts but don't think for a minute that this might be sort of boring because these stores are a kaleidoscope of colorful window displays with products, notices and neon signs, awnings, and an amazing selection of lettering for their names, plus many of them desperately need some renovation and this adds texture to the surrounding building. Photos that are this content rich just don't need any gimmicks or trendy angle shots. The book's large size also adds to their impact (check out the Product Details).

This is a large, chunky, beautifully produced coffee table book (though a shame it wasn't printed with a finer screen than the 175 used). I wouldn't have thought that photos of store fronts would have yielded such a fascinating collection of stunning photos but here they are. A visual treat!

***SEE SOME INSIDE PAGES by clicking 'customer images' under the cover.
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Format: Hardcover
After looking through Store Front, I felt like I was right back in NYC when I lived there over 40 years ago. The hundreds of gorgeous photos of these old mom-and-pop stores brought back memories of my own neighborhood and shopping trips downtown from The Bronx and summer outings to Coney Island. I also enjoyed reading all the interviews with store owners and finding out the "secret" to their survival. I have this massive book on my table and everyone who comes over spends time flipping through it and want to take it home with them. I plan on visiting many of the stores that were highlighted because the photographers kindly gave the exact address of each store in every borough. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever lived in New York, visited New York or just interested in seeing the stores that make NYC the special place that it is.
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Format: Hardcover
Amazing, enormous book filled with page after page of panorama photos and single mom-and-pop stores. I especially loved the huge fold-outs and reading all the interviews. What else can I say, the book is outstanding and I'll treasure it forever. I've told everyone I know to buy it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you truly love the look, feel and vibe of classic New York City neighborhoods, you will love and appreciate "Store Front:The Disapearing Face of New York". Beautiful color photographs that will take you back in time to the community neighborhoods and the specialty merchants who served their customers needs and knew their individual names. The book comes in two sizes, I bought the mini version, same number of excellent photos with brief write ups about the various neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs of NYC.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I would recommend this book of photographs to anyone interested in the history of locally owned and operated shops and stores.

The images in the book cover the five boroughs of New York; Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Each section is broken down by neighborhood.

The authors mention in their introduction that nearly a third of the businesses they photographed have since disappeared. The date on that introduction is 2008, and from my own casual use of Google Map's Street View function to virtually visit many of the addresses in the book - I would say that as of 2013 more than half are gone. Included with the photographs are the approximate addresses of each of the shops and the date the photograph was taken.

I bought this book because I wanted some photos of vintage urban storefronts to use as reference for a project that I'm thinking of doing. This book definitely fills that need and more. Along with the photographs the authors also provides a short history of each of the different areas of New York and they took the time to talk with the people who owned & operated man of these shops and stores. Most of these businesses have been (or were) continuously run by the same family over the generations. That is something I imagined on some level in the back of my mind. But it wasn't till I started reading the brief write-ups of those conversations that these store fronts are like the covers of different books - each containing a unique story of it's own. Realizing that actually helped me with the project that I'm going to work on.
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