A national collection of 377 images that tell the stories behind the shopfronts on the English high street.
Picturing Tower Hamlets with Rehan Jamil, Photographer in Residence
During a 2-year residency, Rehan Jamil worked with residents, Petticoat Lane shopkeepers, and Tiger Class at Canon Barnett Primary School to co-produce a body of work on Tower Hamlets, London. Rehan was supported by Photofusion for his residency for the Picturing High Streets project.
Picturing Tower Hamlets collection
Photographs for Rehan Jamil's Tower Hamlets 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.
Community at heart
Petticoat Lane is located in the heart of London's East End. This high street is known for its lively market, where traders sell everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to vintage clothing.
The Tower Hamlets residency was designed to be community centered and inclusive from the very start. The Photofusion, Photoworks and Historic England team shortlisted artists after an open call, but the final decision was made by residents of Tower Hamlets after an open day at Toynbee Hall. Rehan Jamil, who grew up in Tower Hamlets, was the selected artist.
Residents' memories and brief
Rehan began by holding a number of drop-in sessions at Toynbee Hall. During a memory session held in July 2022, 18 residents shared their memories of the market, talked about current issues, and eventually set a brief for students at Canon Barnett Primary School.
Beginning in September 2022, Rehan worked with Tiger Class pupils during their art time to deliver a collaborative, community-focused photography project. The children learned about how to use a camera, how to compose a photograph, how to select and then caption their images.
Tiger Class students' work
Together, they delivered a body of work which responded to the residents’ thoughts about what makes Petticoat Lane special – the market stalls (especially food and fabric stalls), the housing estates and family histories.
Please click on the gallery images to enlarge photographs by Tiger Class.
Projections at Toynbee Hall and The Photographers' Gallery
The children also created a zine which they shared with their families at a projection event held in the courtyard of Toynbee Hall. That evening, over hot chocolate and pizza, the community, students, family and teachers gathered to view the work Tiger Class made as it was projected onto the side of the building.
The students and teachers were delighted when they were invited by Historic England to exhibit the work in another location, Soho Photo Quarter at The Photographers’ Gallery in central London. Canon Barnett teachers were invited to open the event and a few months later, the students also enjoyed a day out at The Photographers' Gallery.
Community portraits by Rehan Jamil
Rehan also delivered a series of portraits of community leaders and long-term residents to complete the project. Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.
Rehan and Tiger Classes’ photographs of Petticoat Lane together celebrate the diversity and resilience of the people who call this place home, and highlight some of the challenges communities face in the context of gentrification and social change.
Rehan Jamil spent the 2 years of his residency exploring his relationship with Petticoat Lane where he grew up. He worked closely with local residents, traders, and his former primary school, Canon Barnett, to co-produce a portrait of Petticoat Lane that captures its unique character and spirit.
My project captures the community undergoing change. My focus on the three distinct groups – the children, local residents, and traders – provides a multi-faceted perspective on the dynamics of Petticoat Lane market and its surroundings in Tower Hamlets, London.