High Street Portraits by Marta Kochanek

High Street Portraits is a photography exhibition, depicting shop and businesses owners in the town of Wednesbury. On display at Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery from 14 June to 20 September 2023, photographer Marta Kochanek has captured both visual and written insight into these people’s lives and thoughts.

Between January 2021 and May 2023, Marta visited some of Wednesbury’s high street shops and gathered captivating stories and portraits. Following the tumultuous years of the pandemic, shop and business owners faced new difficulties in their place of work. Captured in the interviews Marta conducted, it is clear how much of an impact this had on those portrayed in the photographs. Now, despite the backdrop of a global pandemic and huge increases in costs, many businesses that have been in Wednesbury for generations are still there, and new ones are opening. From shops selling books, sweets and shoes, to hairdressers, tattoo parlours and greengrocers, this exhibition shows the loss and challenges owners face but also their vision, entrepreneurial spirit and determination. It also highlights the unique relationship between customer and owner and the importance of shopping locally.

Multistory would like to thank the shops and businesses involved in this project.

This exhibition has been produced through the We Are Wednesbury Cultural Programme, part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zone initiative funded by Sandwell Council and Historic England to re-establish the historic character of the area and create a vibrant and welcoming space. Since 2021, Multistory, has been working with local residents, communities and groups, who are members of the We Are Wednesbury working group, and local creatives to deliver the programme of activities.

Photographer Marta Kochanek at High Street Portraits exhibition, 2023. Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery. ©Phillip Parnell Photography.

I have been here for forty years, long time! Three generations have come to me to buy uniforms.

Jagdish Raj Malhi– First Choice Uniforms

There was no shoe shop in Wednesbury at that time, so I took the chance as I saw it to be a great opportunity.

Jyoti MalhiPopcorn Shoes and Bags