This Vancouver Photographer is Documenting Disappearing Corner Stores

Gregory Geipel's On the Corner is a nostalgic series about the corner stores we've loved and lost.

March 15, 2017

By Carly Whetter / Photo: Gregory Geipel

Gregory Geipel’s first camera came free with a Happy Meal when he was 10 years old, and he’s been snapping pictures ever since. While much of his Instagram feed is overtaken with photos of his 3:1 panorama project, which he says became his “new thing” after returning from his honeymoon, it’s the On the Corner series that’s gotten the most attention. We spoke with the Vancouver native to learn more about the inspiration behind the project—and the nostalgic response it evokes.

Your On the Corner photo series is really compelling. What inspired the project?

I grew up on the boundary of Vancouver and Burnaby on the south side of Victoria and there’s a corner store that a man named Sherelli had taken over, probably about 40 years ago, and everyone knew it in the neighbourhood. You could buy cigarettes, lotto tickets, candy bars. I mean, corner stores aren’t amazing places to shop but most areas have them. Sherelli’s was torn down about 10 years ago and I was never able to get a photo of it. It’s not in the neighbourhood anymore and a lot of my series features corner stores that are either closed or have been torn down already, so my goal is to document them all before they’re all gone. There’s no real political ideas behind it, I’m not anti-development or anything, I just want to document them before they go.

What makes a good candidate for a corner store shot? Is it the ones that are shutting down?

Not necessarily. Some of them look really good and are thriving. Then again, some of them that I’ve shot look like they’re doing really well and I’ll go back a couple of years later and they’re just gone. Like the one with the Kit Kat front, I just went back by there about a month ago and there is a sign on the door—which I meant to take a photo of but didn’t—which was a handwritten letter from the owners talking about being in the neighbourhood for 40 years and remembering all the kids that went in there and how they had to shut down due to rent rising. So there’s no ideal candidate, nothing makes one better than the other.

What kind of response has the series gotten?

Out of all my photo series it’s been the most popular. A lot of it is people remembering which ones they went to as a kid. I think everyone’s had their own corner store growing up so when they see the photos they have a nostalgic feeling towards them and I think that’s why they’re so popular. Every time someone sees a new photo they go “Oh, have you been to this one?” or “You should go check out this one.” The funny thing is, especially with why I’m documenting them, some people have these ideas about shooting the interiors or shooting ones that are now turned into cafés, but to me it’s more the fading ones that I want to take photos of.

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