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Physical stores, emotional connections

Artist Vladimir Antaki sees independent retailers as “guardians of urban temples”.  In a gesture of respect, Antaki has set out to document these ‘guardians’ worldwide in a series of photographs which he then pastes up over empty storefronts in other locations. He shared a selection with us, and wrote about the project below.

Bill ‘Birdman’ Kasper ran a very, very messy record store in New York called Rainbow Music without a computer, a cell phone, or a cash register. The store closed last September, but an image of it has been installed on the street in Montreal. Image credit: Vladimir Antaki

Shopkeepers are the heart and soul of our cities – humans holding fast to what is dangerously becoming the ways of the past.

The Guardians is a photographic series that was born from my desire to document, preserve the memory and pay tribute to all the keepers of urban temples that we encounter every day without really noticing.

An urban temple can be a store, an artisanal shop or a workshop where a human being puts their heart and passion into what they do. These guardians bear and safeguard the tradition and the know-how of their temples, which are the antithesis of supermarkets, shopping centers or the big chains.

I wander through a city, entering places that call to me, introduce myself to their guardians and take their portrait in the middle of their daily environment. My interest is genuine and they quickly respond to my sincerity.

The Guardians series is best brought to life in life-size prints on display. I create makeshift art galleries in urban settings, turning empty storefronts into cultural pop-ups.

This story originally appeared in NZRetail magazine issue 744 June / July 2016

This glimpse of Jainul Abedin’s Times Square bodega has been transported to a boarded-up shop in Montreal. Image credit: Vladimir Antaki

Paul’s Boutique is a treasure trove of music based in Montreal. Here, a portrait of owner Manuel Paul Gabber is being installed in Philadelphia. Image credit: Vladimir Antaki

A paste-up of Abraham Arazarian’s garage in Beirut has been placed over an empty shopfront in Philadelphia. Image credit: Vladimir Antaki

Guylaine Sirard’s glorious jumble of an antiques shop, D’ici, is in Montreal.

Mustapha, of Marrakesh, Morocco, works in traditional Moroccan furnishings. He took over the family shop after the death of his father, and creates chairs, curtains and wallpaper. Image credit: Vladimir Antaki

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