Who else remembers the excitement of picking out a movie at Blockbuster? Well, despite the video store filing bankruptcy in 2010, a few independently run stores actually still exist, and one Alaska based photographer staged an photoshoot in an Anchorage location.
While there used to be four Blockbusters in Alaska, as internet speeds improve in the remote state, the demand for physical video stores is waning. On Sunday’s show, John Oliver revealed that he’d be donating items bought from Russell Crowe’s divorce auction to the one remaining Blockbuster in Anchorage, including the leather jock strap from Cinderella Man (which HBO purchased for a whopping $7,000) and his vest from Les Miserables.
We chatted with Sarah Freije of Blueberry Hill Photography about how this shoot came about.
Where did the idea to shoot at Blockbuster come from?
The session was actually my idea. I have my degree in film and am ridiculously nostalgic for the ’90s. I loved that in Alaska we still had Blockbuster, and since they’d disappeared everywhere else, I thought it would great to remember what it was like to walk through the aisles and look at all of the movies. This was an even bigger deal if you were walking through the store with your crush! Picking out the movie was a huge deal. There would be possible cuddling if it was scary, inside jokes if it was funny, or makeout opportunities if it was boring. I approached a friend who models and she said that she and her boyfriend used to hang out at that Blockbuster when they were in high school (before they started dating years later).
What’s been the reaction to the shoot?
The reaction to the shoot has been of nostalgia, for sure. I think people also liked seeing something a little bit different, since so often our feeds are full of very similar-looking photos.
Do you have a favorite Blockbuster memory from childhood? What was your most rented title?
I’m so disappointed to hear that this location of Blockbuster is closing. Now we will be down to one in Anchorage. I still go there regularly to rent movies! I think one of my favorite memories is going to Blockbuster with my little sister. We would get on these kicks where we had favorite actors, and we’d work our way through all of their films. This was back in the day before smartphones, so Blockbuster had this giant book of movie info on the counter. You could look up actors, directors, film titles… anything you could think of. We would go in the store and head straight to the book to figure out what we wanted to rent next. That summer, we watched everything that Ewan McGregor, Johnny Depp, and Cary Grant ever made.
Any tips for couples who want to have their photos taken in retail or other unconventional locations?
Shooting in unconventional locations is becoming more and more common, especially with things like the Michaels Challenge happening right now and being really big. I think if couples pick a place that is important to them or that has the possibility for fun props, and if they find a photographer that shares their vision, really fun things can happen. Talking the couple through picking out movies and thinking about those early-dating butterflies helped them get into the mood and loosen up in front of the camera.