Heartbreak in Hampstead as Photo Craft closes down
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
A much-loved photography shop which has been at the heart of Hampstead village life for 50 years, is closing its doors next weekend.
Owner Keith Wynn said he was heartbroken to be shutting Photo Craft, in Heath Street, where he has worked since the age of 16 when it first opened in 1965. But he says he can no longer afford to stay open.
Mr Wynn, now 66, has become a stalwart of the community in Hampstead seeing hundreds of celebrity customers and generations of families come through his doors.
In 1981 he took over the store on the retirement of its founder, Gerhard Cohn.
Mr Wynn blamed a change in photographic culture to digital photography and online photographic storage for the decline of his business.
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“These changes have taken what profit there was out of the business. I just can’t afford to carry on anymore. I have been keeping it afloat from my own pocket over the last few years.
“People no longer need to get their photos developed or printed as they keep everything on their computers.
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‘‘But what happens when the hard drive fails?” he added
“It will be a tragedy and so much social history will be lost.”
Negotiations are being finalised over the sale of his lease and if everything goes through, he will close his doors on October 12.
He said: “There have been a lot of tears shed in my shop in the last few days by staff and customers. I am so emotional about it. I have been walking through this door every day since I left school. It is such a wrench to me.”
Mr Mr Wynn says Photo Craft will remain as an online business and he will also carry on teaching photography on a one-to-one basis.
His staff member Paul Parker, who has helped him for 30 years, will also still be offering teaching in people’s homes on the Photoshop picture editing programme.
Mr Wynn, who has been a regular at community events, from the Hampstead Town’s safer neighbourhood panel meetings to Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum meetings, is looking forward to spending more time now with wife Jennifer and his two daughters Katy and Sarah and five grandchildren.
He has hired a storage unit to keep hold of all the shop’s history and photographs taken over the last 50 years from weddings, social functions, political events and art exhibitions.
Meanwhile customers have expressed their sadness over the loss of the central “hub” of the community.
Jessica Learmond-Criqui, who spearheads the Hampstead Shops Campaign, said: “Keith and his shop to me epitomises what is essential in Hampstead’s high street – an independent trader who made it his life’s work to serve the community.
“The loss of his shop will be the end of an era and a signal of yet another casualty of the current rates and rent crisis which has enveloped our high streets.
Actor Tom Conti said: “I am so sad to hear that we’re losing Photocraft, probably the oldest surviving privately owned shop in the village. Keith’s huge knowledge of his subject and the goods he sold has been a godsend to his customers. “His smiling face will be missed - but his grandchildren will get the benefit.”
Photo Craft will close its doors on October 12.