For seven years and over 200,000 miles, photographer Rob Hammer and his dog Mojo traveled throughout all 50 states and photographed both long-standing older shops and their barbers, as well as up and coming new stores and the younger generation building on the traditional trade. Barbershops of America: Then and Now provides a glimpse into the people and physical spaces that foster community, storytelling, and connection.
Originally published in 2018, this re-release emphasizes that these images preserve in many cases the memories of shops that did not survive the impacts of Covid, or the emergence of the corporate chain store barbershop since Hammer began the project in 2012. This loss left a civic deficit that has impacted local small-town economies, as well as the intrinsic value that long-standing community gathering spaces provide.
Hammer’s photographs show both people within the barbershop spaces, as well as empty shop interiors, and both tell the very human story of these places. Hammer’s composition captures the objects within the shops, the wear and tear, the details, all of which resonate to shed light on the role these places serve to the people who sit in the chairs and chat and laugh and listen. In his essay for the book Hammer highlights what drew him to particular shops. “Everything in here is what I consider to be a real barbershop. You see, shops—real shops, that is—are just like people, in that they have a soul. That’s why a photograph of an empty shop is just as effective as one with every chair filled. You can just feel what’s happened in there.”
The book’s layout is indicative of Hammer’s consideration of how the project evolved over the many years he was immersed in traveling and documenting. The first part is entitled, “Old School,” and includes photographs of traditional barber shops that in some cases have been providing this service for multiple decades. Their decor and furniture reflect this continual use and the passage of time, and are most often filled with older gentlemen, some of whom may have been cutting hair or getting their haircut at these places for 50 years.
The next section is entitled, “Next Generation” and it shows younger barbers inside slicker barbershops with newer interior spaces and a sense of intentional design in the mood created within the shops, some with a counterculture vibe of tattooed barbers and skateboard decor. The atmosphere is still just as community-driven, the people in the photographs are laughing and talking and connecting. The essence is the same.
In his essay Hammer also reflects on the generational theme running through it, noting, “This project started out of my love for barbershops and the desire to photograph the old timers before they were all gone, but that focus shifted after being introduced to some of the “next generation.” So this book is very much about barbering’s disappearing past and the stark contrast of its now-vibrant future.”
“A lot of people will never get to experience for themselves what it’s like to be in an old shop, but looking through these pages can help them imagine. And as time goes on, and the industry changes, so will barber shops. So what this book as a whole also shows is barbering during what could be its largest boom ever, and the trade’s very specific place on the American timeline.” – Rob Hammer, photographer
Rob Hammer : Barbershops of America – Then & Now
Text by Rob Hammer and Mark-Jason Solofa
192 pages, 508 color and black and white photographs.
11.0 x 8.5 in