Photographic exhibition dedicated to the Clapham store extended until the end of May

A photograph the exhibition dedicated to the owner of Clapham High Street’s oldest independent shop has been extended until 28 May.

‘Behind The Shop Facade’, hosted by Clapham Library, explores the life of Jeannette Fashions owner Maurice Dorfman, who died in February 2020 aged 87.

Calling him an “unsung hero”, Clapham photographer Jim Grover befriended Dorfman for a previous project in 2016, “48 Hours on Clapham High Street”, and decided to dedicate an exhibition to his life after his death.

Watch the full story below:

WATCH: Photographer Jim Grover talks to SWL about ‘Behind The Shop Facade’ exhibit

Grover said: “When I first met him in his 80s, I found a man living alone and I felt sad for him.

“What was actually so uplifting was finding out that he had lived a full life.”

HIGH STREET FIXTURE: Jeannette Fashions on Clapham High Street

To find out more about Dorfman’s life, the Clapham photographer reached out to friends and clients to hear their stories and documented the shop as it went undisturbed.

The resulting exhibit spans three floors and features interviews with friends, photographs of his possessions, restored Kodachrome slides, and his family’s home movies.

As the sons of Ukrainian refugees who fled pogroms in 1902, David Dorfman and his wife Jeanette established Jeannette Fashions on Clapham High Street in 1959, moving into the upstairs flat with their sons, Hyman and Maurice.

Restored 1960s home movies of the Dorfman family (Courtesy of Jim Grover)

Maurice Dorfman took over the shop in 1982 when his mother died and steered it to success in the following years, increasing annual sales from £34,200 in 1982 to a peak of £78,600 in 1988 (225 £000 in today’s money).

He survived two bouts of cancer in 1997 and 2003 and kept the store open despite declining sales until late 2019 when he was taken to hospital.

Dorfman died in care in February 2020 at age 87 without a will or any next of kin, so the shop will likely be sold, although it is still mostly intact two years later.

Grover raised over £8,000 via Kickstarter to fund the exhibition, which was conceived and curated by Susanna Brown of the V&A.

VROOM: A display board showing Maurice’s penchant for motorbikes (Courtesy of Jim Grover)

After 18 months of planning, Grover plans to take a short break before looking ahead to the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush next year, building on his photo essay “Windrush: Portrait of a Generation “.

Her previous photography projects have included ’48 Hours on Clapham High Street’ and ‘Covid Tales From Tom’s Bench’, and her work primarily documents the lives of ordinary people.

Grover said: “I love finding lore, community and unsung heroes on my doorstep in South London because I believe there are plenty of amazing stories to uncover.

“I found that if you are curious and interested in people, there are so many stories to tell and this is just one of them.”

Behind The Shop Facade is available from the Clapham Library until May 28. A 230-page book on the exhibition is available online in PDF format and in hard copy.

Featured image credit: Jim Grover

Tracey L. Sweeney