Small Shops : Brian Lomas


01.07.21 - 28.08.21

Book available here

Part of Manchester’s urban history is being celebrated with a new book featuring images of local independent shops in the 1980s, which already look like a bygone age.

The series of rarely seen black and white photographs, taken by self-taught photographer Brian Lomas in his native North Manchester, have been brought together for the carefully curated exhibition and book, titled Small Shops.

Greengrocers, butchers, barbers, chip shops and florists, many adorned with old signage, are just some of the independent businesses featured. Not only have most of these businesses since disappeared, but many of the buildings that housed them have also now gone.

Amateur photographer Brian, who was at the time in his mid-twenties and working as a health service administrator, took the photographs on his Rolleiflex camera mostly in and around Moston, as well Blackley, Newton Heath and Harpurhey.

While some of the original prints were initially shown in 1983 at Uppermill Photography Gallery (now Saddleworth Museum and Gallery), and exhibited at Liverpool’s Open Eye gallery in 1986, these images have gone mostly unseen until now.

Brian, 65, has lived in North Manchester all of his life, and now resides in Failsworth. He comments: “Even then, many of these shops seemed out of their time, with their quirky and characteristic details - shopfronts with old signage, old fashioned style shop tills and traditional weighing scales.

“Many of these independent businesses were under threat at the time, particularly with large supermarkets coming into Manchester, but also with shopkeepers coming up to retirement age and not having anyone to pass the business on to. So, I was keen to document these local small shops before they were gone.

“I’ve been taking photographs for over 40 years and in that time, things have changed dramatically across the city. Many of these buildings are now gone completely, so I’m very glad that I captured that part of history while I could.”

“These photographs capture a time and place that, despite being within many of our own lifetimes, now seems like a lost age."

The Modernist, 58 Port Street, Manchester M1 2EQ

Open 11am to 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday

To coincide with the launch of the exhibition, the modernist has published a book of the photographs, available from 1 July from the modernist.

Small Shops was designed by Jonathan Hitchen and printed in Wales by Gomer Press.


Hesketh's, Greenrocer, Moston, 1980

Gosling's, Fishmonger, Moston,  1982

Barber, Portland Street, Manchester, 1982

Travis's, Butcher, Chadderton, 1982

Brian Lomas, Self Portrait, 1980