A national collection of 377 images that tell the stories behind the shopfronts on the English high street.
Picturing Prescot Primary School with Lucy Hunter, Photographer
In 2022, Lucy Hunter worked with a group of students from Prescot Primary School. Using their cameras, the group explored their local area with a key focus on portraiture, high street and exploration.
Picturing Prescot Primary School collection
Photographs for Lucy Hunter's Prescot Primary School study have entered the Historic England Archive, the nation’s archive for England’s historic buildings, archaeology and social history. They are part of the new Picturing High Streets national photography collection.
Lucy Hunter took part in a Continuing Professional Development programme with Open Eye Gallery which supports photographers to develop skills in socially engaged approaches to photography. Lucy was awarded a commission with Picturing High Streets to work with a community in Prescot’s High Street Heritage Action Zone.
Lucy was mentored by and supported Tony Mallon, photographer in residence in Prescot. Lucy created an independent project with Prescot Primary School, working with both students and staff to create new photographs that resulted in a public exhibition of the work at Shakespeare North Playhouse in August 2022.
As part of the foundations for this project, Lucy and Tony agreed it was important to situate themselves on the high street and get to know the local community.
Meeting the local community
Lucy and Tony set up a stall showing archive images of Prescot, and this often sparked a conversation.
On one of these occasions, they met a group of school children who quickly took to photographing the archival shots as well as Lucy and Tony on their iPads. Prescot Primary School is an Apple Distinguished School, meaning that every child has their own iPad which they will keep ownership of from Year 2 up until Year 6.
Upon hearing about the Picturing High Street project, the school was keen to be involved.
Forming a new after school club
Following a meeting with the deputy head a few weeks later, an after-school club was formed comprising 10 digi-leaders. At Prescot Primary there are a number of student leadership groups, one of these being the digi-leaders. They are a group of Year 5 students (aged between 9 and 10) who support the computer hubs at lunchtime and also help teachers with any issues. Lucy met them weekly for an hour after school. Using the iPad cameras, they began to explore the idea of portraiture, perspective and place.
Due to time restraints and logistical challenges, it wasn’t possible to visit the high street on more than a couple of occasions. It was decided to use this constraint to their advantage and consider how they could bring the high street to their sessions without physically going there.
Bringing the high street into the classroom
The children drew their own panoramic high street, reimagining the space and creating their own designs. They walked on it. And they sat on it.
Another way in which the high street was brought to their sessions was through light projections. Using the children’s photographs of a trip to the high street, they then repositioned one another back in the space, playing with light, shadow and movement.
Building themes, techniques and confidence
On their 9th session, they revisited the high street and walked around the space, the children were again encouraged to make a portrait.
This time the children’s approach seemed quite different, and their conﬁdence and creativity had really grown since the initial visit a few months before.
Over the course of the sessions, themes around textures and layers emerged. They often spoke of the Pizza of Prescot with its toppings of pavements, cobbled streets, shop fronts, rooftops, alleyways, reﬂections, nature, wildlife, shadows and many, many more.
Through their work, both individually and collaboratively, the children have created a multi-layered portrait of a high street, sharing their own experiences and perspectives of the area. They have repurposed the space, using it as a source of inspiration and a newfound playground.
I hope that the participants will continue to look more closely at their surroundings and consider new perspectives. I hope they view the high street as a source of inspiration and a space they can socialise and be creative.