Remember the project continues until 30 September 2023, so you can still submit your high street photos.
Opening today (22 March), a major new outdoor exhibition called Picturing High Streets tells the stories behind our shopfronts. It celebrates our high street heroes, captures familiar scenes and invites audiences to consider the value and role of their local high street. The exhibition is part of a three-year project by Historic England and Photoworks, in partnership with national and regional photography organisations, to create a contemporary portrait of England’s high streets.
This exhibition is part of Historic England’s £95 million government-funded High Streets Heritage Action Zone scheme, breathing new life into high streets across England.
At a time when our high streets are continuing to change rapidly, this exhibition invites the public to reflect on the role of the high street. It also considers the history and experiences of the people and places that make up an often-overlooked fixture in all our lives. From lively market traders to reflective coffee drinkers, friends meeting up in favourite shops to individuals taking walks, light festivals to nights out the winning images show the stories behind the shopfronts.
Including street scenes, portraiture, candid shots, architectural photography, special effects, black and white formats and documentary styles, this new collection celebrates photography in all its forms. It includes photographs from a great range of participants including from young people in workshops, amateurs using camera phones, artists, camera clubs and professionals.
The winning 65 photographs have been crowdsourced from over 1,000 public entries and will tour towns and cities across England from today, 22 March. The images will be shown alongside works by resident artists in ten locations around England, meaning that the exhibition will change to reflect each location it appears in.
This major national outdoor exhibition kicks off in London in the form of projections at Soho Photography Quarter off Oxford Street, next to The Photographers’ Gallery (22-29 March), Derby as part of FORMAT23 photography festival (16 March – 9 April), Bristol (22 March – 1 May), Hastings (22 March – 23 April), Middlesbrough (22 March – May) and Prescot (22 March – 23 April). The exhibition will then travel to Norwich, Bradford and Stoke-on-Trent.
Since September 2022, people across England have been responding to themed fortnightly challenges, from “high street hang outs” to “bright lights to dark nights” and submitting their photographs on Instagram under the hashtag #PicturingHighStreets. All entries create an unofficial archive documenting a year in the life of the English high street on Instagram, and the winning photographs will also enter the Historic England Archive, the nation’s archive for England’s historic buildings, archaeology and social history.
It was a joy to judge the images submitted by the public, each of which reflected its own way the true importance and spirit of England’s high streets today. The range and volume of images submitted shows just how much the high street still means to us all, and this exhibition captures a moment in the everyday life of the high street. We’re thrilled to be bringing these images to high streets across England in different forms in our largest outdoor exhibition to date.
This wonderful selection of photographs submitted by the public captures the vibrancy and quirkiness of our high streets, and illustrates how central they are to our lives – a point well underlined when they stood empty during the pandemic. I am delighted that these images, part of the Government-funded High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme, will be going on display across the country to celebrate the return of our high streets.
The full 65 images can be viewed online. They were judged by designer and retail expert Wayne Hemingway MBE, artist Camille Walala, Clear Channel UK’s Marketing Director Ben Hope, Director of Photoworks Jonathan May, and Historic England Chief Executive, Duncan Wilson.
Below are a selection of the judges’ favourite images and their reasons for choosing them.
"What is more British than pigeons and fried chicken takeaways? This photo says to me that the ordinary can be comforting, and it makes me smile.”
Wayne Hemmingway MBE
“This image embodies the high street’s role as a place where people come together to celebrate. It captures the High Street’s role as a multi-cultural space for the whole community. With its dramatic lighting it is exciting and joyous.”
Duncan Wilson, Historic England Chief Executive
“Just a five-minute walk into the Northern Quarter from Piccadilly Gardens, any music-lover will have experienced at least one legendary gig at the Night & Day Café. Yet it sits at the heart of a tension found on high streets across the country, where gentrification and new urban homes conflict with the nocturnal creative communities that have made these locations prime real estate. Many venues like this face closure from these tensions – and what will our high streets become if we lose them?”
Jonathan May, Photoworks Director
“I think this shot speaks to the future nature of highstreets, despite looking more like a heritage photo. They come in many shapes, sizes and serve different communities and needs in different ways, but places and people are changing. Breakfast, lunch then dinner (or dinner then tea where I'm from) and even in the final moments of the last people leaving, there can still be a great independent business providing a vital bite to eat on the way home. High streets need to adapt to serve those changing needs, but I hope there are always still places like Voodoo Ray's nearby.”
Ben Hope, Clear Channel UK Marketing Director
Picturing High Streets can be seen at:
Derby as part of FORMAT23 photography festival, appearing on pillars from 16 March – 9 April.
London in the form of projections at dusk in Soho Photography Quarter off Oxford Street, right outside The Photographers’ Gallery from 22-29 March. The projection will feature additional, new work from London College of Communications MA students, artist Rehan Jamil, and primary school pupils from Tower Hamlets.
Touring exhibition of panels exhibiting the 60 winning photographs:
Window vinyls in shop windows showcasing winning photographs:
Appearing on Clear Channel’s digital advertising screens around England from March 2023 onwards.
The high streets cultural programme is the widest-reaching, community-led arts and heritage programme in the public realm that has ever been organised, led by Historic England in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Follow @PicturingHighStreets on Instagram and post your pictures using #PicturingHighStreets.
Our website works best with the latest version of the browsers below, unfortunately your browser is not supported. Using an old browser means that some parts of our website might not work correctly.