Volume: Picturing High Streets Photographer Residencies - Suzanne St Clare: Chester

1 Feb 2022 - 11 Aug 2023
Chester, Cheshire West And Chester
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In 2022-23 Historic England commissioned several photographers to work with local communities to capture images representative of their local high streets. This formed part of the Picturing High Streets project. In Chester, Suzanne St Clare was commissioned as photographer. She wrote the following text to describe her work on the project: “My response to the residency was to work creatively with business owners trading on the historical Rows in Chester.

Initially we started by finding out about how these business owners came to Chester, their community, challenges, the quirkiness of independent trading and their love and passion for this beautiful, historic city. In the first year the traders were shown the work of Japanese photographer, Daido Moriyama who shot using black and white film with little regard to composition. The traders didn’t have much spare time, and most weren’t familiar with using a camera, so by using disposable film cameras, there was no pressure to ‘examine’ what they were photographing. The traders photographed their working lives and businesses in a similar style to Daido Moriyama. In the second year, we took inspiration from photographers such as Gregory Crewdson and Julia Fullerton-Batten, who are known for their cinematic style and use of studio lights. Together we created a series of images that document the characters who make up the shops on the Rows. Most of those who took part would often speak of their dissatisfaction relating to what they felt was a lack of support, and how powerless they felt to be able to trade profitably. Yet they were the captains of their business, and from the outside what could look like positions of power. The intention of these images was to portray the traders in a way that acknowledged that status, where they looked powerful and showed the beauty of the Rows retail space and the detail of their surroundings in a positive and authentic way. The final aspect of the project was to work with the traders and their customers in respect of what they would like to see for the future of the Rows. I spoke with both, and the shortlist of wishes included: ● the revival of greengrocers in the centre. ● reinstatement of antique shops.

● restoring missing flooring and flaking paint.

● adding effective signage.

● a ‘gated’ element to the Rows for good security at night.

● for those sleeping rough to be accommodated for.

Three key areas were photographed that highlighted the issues that the Rows continue to face. These areas were then removed in Photoshop with the above requests drawn in.

Three photographs accompanied by original drawings on fine art paper bring together the customers’ aspirations and traders’ visions for the Rows.” Since this commission, the Rows Capital Improvements project has enhanced more than 100 properties associated with the Rows to improve access and footfall as part of the High Street Heritage Action Zones Programme. This has included improvements to the lighting, paintwork, balustrading and stall boards, investment in marketing the Rows as well as tours and other activities, and the production of a Business Guide aimed at local traders.

'Picturing England's High Streets' commission by Open Eye Gallery, Historic England and Photoworks.

Images by Suzanne St Clare, with contributions from Niki Davies, Calum Conn, Will Powell, Ash Afife, Paul Boyland and Robin Langley.


This is part of the Sub Series: HEC01/128/01 Picturing High Streets: Photographer Residencies; within the Series: HEC01/128 Picturing High Streets; within the Collection: HEC01 Historic England

This Volume is divided into 3 Child Jobs
This Volume contains the following materials:
Photograph (Digital): 23


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Photographer: St Clare, Suzanne