Lewis’s fifth floor: a department story at the Conservation Centre

 March 9, 2010         Leave a comment

I had a walk around Lewis’s recently – it was like a walk back in time and, sad though I was, it was clear that the famous department store was stuck in a time warp.

The place looks shabby and tired, and I felt for the staff who must have seen the place decline.

Having looked around the Conservation Centre’s exhibition of Stephen King’s images of the fifth floor of Lewis’s, it’s clear that that’s not the half of it.

Frozen in time since it closed its doors to the public, the floor is like a Marie Celeste of the retail world, looking almost like it was abandoned overnight.

King’s images of the faded, decadent beauty and grandiosity of it all are wonderful; melancholy snapshots of a time long gone.

The shots of the staff, particularly, are wonderful portraits of proud employees, and the information on how long many of them spent working at the department store testament to how well Lewis’s treated its employees.

The composition in the photography is wonderful, even though it has to be said that the subject matter is strong. King doesn’t overdo it, but lets the visuals speak for themselves.

There’s also a ‘documentary’ filmed by Jacqueline Passmore that includes some lovely memories from Lewis’s staff from times gone by, but the faux-cine visuals are annoyingly vague and unfocussed, in more ways than one.

Still, that doesn’t take the sheen off a wonderful set of pictures and reminiscences that provide a window into a beautiful lost world of customer service, jobs for life and formica.

Liverpool will be diminished for losing Lewis’s.

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