Bethnal Green’s abundance of corner shops offer a humble alternative to chain supermarkets. Commuters, residents and school children pop in and out of the colourful shop-fronts enticed by the bright lights and displays of fruit and veg.
As the sun begins to set in Bethnal Green the glow of its corner shops shine into the darkening autumn evening. Red and blue bulbs read “open”, and backlit shop signage lights up the damp pavements as Bethnal Green’s corner shops await their bout of evening commuters.
Whilst some shops have layered years of national lottery advertisements over each other, others maintain pristine exteriors. However, all are victim of the rise of the vape pen, as old tobacco shelves behind tills make way for loud sweet-like displays of fruit-flavored elf bars. Some shops draw you in with bloated bowls of peppers and bananas and others show signs of their age as pinball machines and signs with swirling typefaces scatter the pavement in front of their shops.
The culture of “popping to a corner sop” is alive and well in Bethnal Green where there is a dearth of the “Big 5” supermarkets. The lack of big-name supermarkets nearby means people will be in and out of a healthy handful of corner shops around them. Equally, the lack of self-check-out tills means it’s much more likely residents will build a solid rapport with their local corner shop man over time, learning the quirks and ins and outs of what each shop does or doesn’t provide.
In this photo essay, grocery shops, an integral part of the tapestry of Bethnal Green, are documented right before their prime time, in the liminal space between afternoon and evening, when hungry commuters and sweet-toothed school-children flock to their bright lights on their various routes home.