A national collection of 377 images that tell the stories behind the shopfronts on the English high street.
Picturing Stoke-on-Trent with Natalie Willatt, Photographer in Residence
For 2 years, Natalie Willatt worked with and alongside the diverse communities of Stoke town as the Picturing Stoke-onTrent photographer in residence, supported by GRAIN Projects. The body of work she created highlights the life and community that goes on behind closed doors, often hidden from the quiet and neglected high street.
Picturing Stoke collection
Photographs from Natalie Willatt's Stoke-on-Trent residency 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.
Capturing communities out of sight
As photographer in residence in the historic town of Stoke-on-Trent, Natalie worked alongside diverse communities, each a part of the town, and each welcoming her to their places of congregation. With a focus on belief and faith, in its broadest sense, Natalie’s main focus was on the behaviours and gestures of people partaking in worship, music, football, culture and heritage.
In dancing with churchgoers at the close of a thanksgiving service; being one of many voices singing Delilah in the wake of a football win; observing a moment of quiet reflection over Diwali candles and in pausing to listen between bell rings, here Natalie found and captured moments of reflection, expressions of faith and celebrations of community.
Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.
These photographs of congregation and union offer an alternative view to the commonly held idea of the deserted and neglected high street. Amidst dwindling footfall, her photographs are a celebration of life that can still be found behind closed doors.
Natalie also created participation opportunities for a community allotment group, photography students at Staffordshire University and amateur local photographers.
The final project was exhibited at Spode Museum from September to November 2023.
Natalie Willatt uses photography to provide access to the arts and to empower people to tell their own stories through photography.
Willatt worked in her hometown of Stoke-on-Trent, exploring the high street with local people and communities, collaborating with a diverse range of groups.
Working on the Picturing High Streets residency has allowed me to develop my personal practice, gain confidence, build a portfolio, work with new communities and produce a body of work that I'm proud of and have been able to show.