Over a year (September 2022-23), Historic England and Photoworks invited people across England to look at the high street as never before. 10,500 photographs were posted in response to fortnightly challenges using #PicturingHighStreets, from portraits to street photography and artistic interpretations to black and white scenes. 

The most evocative photographs were shared on the Picturing High Streets Instagram channel with the purpose of building an unofficial archive of England’s high streets. For each theme Historic England, Photoworks and partners, selected their favourites to add to the Historic England Archive, the nation’s archive for England’s historic buildings, archaeology and social history. A selection of photographs submitted before 6 December 2022 were also displayed in a national outdoor exhibition that filled advertising space, outdoor exhibition panels and shop windows on high streets across England.  

To encourage participation @picturinghighstreets shared video toolkits to inspire image-making and help participants connect with a sense of place and community. Over one year the account featured 848 posts, received 1.3 million impressions and conversed with participants in over 1,700 direct messages. The challenges are now over, but @picturinghighstreets will remain live so audiences can revisit the unofficial archive and find information about where the project’s legacy continues to grow. 

By recording a year in the life of all English high streets, the project was able to connect with a broad range of communities. Through our participant survey, we found that the @picturinghighstreets challenges offered an accessible way for audiences to connect with art, increased skills in photography, connected participants with likeminded people, alongside opportunities to create a deeper personal connection with the culture and heritage of both their own high streets and new ones. 

Participant Natalie told us: 

‘The Picturing High Streets project has been an important experience in my journey towards a future deeply rooted in photography. This experience not only altered the trajectory of my career but also enriched my life in ways I hadn’t anticipated. The recognition and opportunity it provided completely transformed my direction, instilling in me the confidence to pursue photography at a professional level. It pushed me to apply for an MA in Photography at Falmouth University—a step I might not have taken otherwise. Moreover, the project introduced me to a vibrant community of photographers, opening doors to new friendships and professional contacts within the photography world.’  

Over a year @picturinghighstreets created a snapshot of a year in the life of the English high street, documenting and celebrating the people, places and stories it holds. Here are some of the highlight images: 

Become a Photoworks Friend

Becoming a Photoworks Friend is the only way to receive a Photoworks Festival in a Box. Join now to get yours as well as a range of year round exclusive content, opportunities, invites and 20% off in our online shop.

Photoworks Opportunities

Keep up to date with our latest opportunities as well as ways to learn more about how to get involved with and support our work.

Sign up here

Become a Photoworks Friend

The only way to receive Annual 26 & get exclusive access to our events, content and a 20% shop discount