Historic England to create touring exhibition from Instagram photos of the high street

Image: Rehan Jamil, from Picturing High Streets Residency. 'Petticoat Lane' in Tower Hamlets, 2022 (c) Rehan Jamil

A year-long exhibition will be the result of a fortnightly competition run on the social media platform, accepting photos from the public of their local high street.

A year-long call out to create an ‘unofficial photographic archive of the English high street’ begins today, which will result in a national outdoor exhibition open next Spring.

Historic England has collaborated with UK development agency Photoworks on the project, which will result in an exhibition of fifty photographs being displayed in an England-wide outdoor exhibition.

A fortnightly challenge, run on Instagram, will allow users to post photos for consideration with the hashtag #PicturingHighStreets from today.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England explained: “High streets are at the heart of communities. We know their future feels uncertain and high streets are facing a pivotal moment in their long history. It’s time to get out there, rediscover our high streets, and tell the stories behind the shopfronts.”

A selection of photographs submitted before 21st December 2022 will form a national outdoor exhibition filling advertising space, outdoor exhibition panels and shop windows on high streets across England.

These photographs – alongside a selection of others submitted from January 2023 onwards – will also enter the Historic England Archive, the nation’s archive for England’s historic buildings, archaeology and social history.

Designer and retail expert Wayne Hemingway will join artist Camille Walala, best known for her large-scale murals that transform public spaces, as judges to help choose the winning images to go into the national touring exhibition.

Ben Hope, Marketing Director at Clear Channel and Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England will also take part in the judging.

Designer, Wayne Hemingway MBE, said: “The most exciting high streets are the ones that allow creativity and experimentation to thrive. I’m looking forward to seeing how these images capture the high street’s reinvention.”

Artist, Camille Walala, said: “Our high streets can be canvasses for culture and expression, transforming how people feel about their local place. I can’t wait to see how the images we choose for the exhibition can inject hope and positivity on to our high streets.”

The high street cultural programme is part of the £95 million government-funded High Streets Heritage Action Zone scheme.