Picturing High Streets Through the Eyes of the Public

Picturing High Streets was a 3-year project to involve the public in creating a contemporary picture of England’s high streets. 

Involving the public

The Picturing High Streets project had 2 parts:

  • A mass public participation project inviting the public to submit their photos of the high street using the Instagram hashtag #PicturingHighStreets
  • Nine photographers in residence across 6 high street locations, working with local communities to co-create snapshots of the high street

Over 370 photographs documenting and celebrating the high street were selected to create a new collection in the Historic England Archive.

About the Picturing High Streets collection 

The project partners were Historic England and photography champions Photoworks who worked with 9 regional partner photography organisations from 2020 to 2023.

The project was part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zones Cultural Programme. The cultural programme set out to create 4 years of cultural activity, engaging communities with, and celebrating, their local high streets. 

Mass public participation 

From September 2022 to September 2023, people across England responded to our call out to submit their photos of the high street on Instagram using the hashtag #PicturingHighStreets and tagging @PicturingHighStreets.  

Through themed fortnightly challenges, the public were invited and inspired to share their high street images.  

Over 10,000 photographs were posted on Instagram, from portraits to street photography to artistic interpretations to black and white scenes. For each theme Historic England, Photoworks and partners, selected their favourites to add to the Historic England Archive.

The collection presents a snapshot of a year in the life of the English high street, documenting and celebrating the people, places and stories it holds. 

Gallery of highlights


Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

Local competitions 

Alongside the fortnightly themed call outs, local Picturing High Streets competitions asked for images from the public that captured the unique character of their towns or specific high street features such as bus stops and ghost signs. Winning images from these local call outs were used in exhibitions and added into the Historic England Archive for: 

National touring exhibition

An outdoor exhibition, featuring over 60 images collected from public submissions toured towns and cities across England from March to November 2023. 

In 2023, a panel of judges chose a selection of more than 60 winning images from the thousands submitted by the public to the Instagram call outs. The panel included: 

  • Wayne Hemingway, designer and retail expert 
  • Camille Walala, artist 
  • Ben Hope, Clear Channel’s Marketing Director
  • Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England
  • Jonathan May, Interim Director, Photoworks
  • Shoair Mavlian, Director, The Photographers' Gallery

These photographs were exhibited in different spaces and formats across England, including panels in Bristol, Derby, Norwich, Bradford and Walsall, window vinyls in Middlesbrough, Hastings, Prescot and Stoke-on-Trent, projections outside The Photographers' Gallery in London, and on Clear Channel UK advertising space across England. 


Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

Photographers in residence  

Nine photographers, selected via open call, undertook residencies at 6 high street locations across England. Resident artists in Bristol, Chester, Coventry, Leicester, Prescot, Stoke-on-Trent and London engaged with local communities to co-create snapshots of how the high street is used and who it is used by.

The images now in the Historic England Archive show what communities are proud of in their towns and the local customs and traditions linked to the high street in different parts of the country. 

Residency highlights


Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

Supported by

HM Government
Heritage Fund logo
Arts Council
Clear Channel logo
Format Quad
Impressions Gallery
Open Eye Gallery
The Photographers' Gallery
The Photographic Collections Network
University of the Arts London