Julian Germain’s “work ranks among the best in contemporary British documentary photography. The theme of The Future is Ours – Classroom Portraits 2004-2012 is as simple as it is rich: group portraits of children in their classroom. In this series, Germain reinterprets the traditional class photo in his own, perceptive way. He enters a classroom while a lesson is in progress, the pupils sit in their usual places and he only moves a child here and there to ensure no one is obscured by anyone else. He sets up his camera on the spot where the teacher usually stands, at ‘child height’. In some cases he also shoots a short video from this angle, for which the children have to sit completely still. They are thus aware of the photographer and look directly into the camera. As a viewer, you look at the photo and 10, 15 or 30 pairs of young eyes gaze back at you.
By photographing in colour with a large-format camera, Germain captures even the smallest details. The children’s intent faces and the objects in the classrooms tell the story of the pupils and their environment. Germain also asked the children to complete surveys that asked both serious and playful questions. He converted the results into infographics, providing the viewer with more information about the children’s daily lives as well as their music preferences, aspirations and so on. Germain thus gives us a glimpse of how the children experience the world.
The power of the images lies in their direct connection to us as viewers. We all think back to our own class photos and wonder what happened to our classmates. Germain’s photographs invite us to imagine what the future holds for these pupils; what their dreams, hopes and opportunities are. By presenting different countries, schools and age groups, he creates a picture of the similarities and differences in contemporary education across countries, cultures and social classes.”
EXHIBITION: The Future is Ours | Classroom Portraits 2004- 2012 | 02.JUN.2012_02.SEP.2012
Nederlands Foto Museum Nederlands Foto Museum
BOOK: Classroom Portraits | Julian Germain | ENG | Prestel Verlag | €59.95
I am tempted to hop on a train to Rotterdam …