“By presenting different pupils, different schools, different year groups, Germain asks questions about contemporary educational practices and social divisions,” Archive Magazine wrote of the project in October 2005.
“I never tell the students how they should look but ensuring that everybody has a clear view of the camera requires concentration and patience. Each pupil has to be aware of their place in the picture,” Germain wrote to Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova.
Even after eight years, “Classroom Portraits” is still catching the public eye. A user-curated gallery of select photos from the project rose to the front page of social new site Reddit on Oct. 9. A photo book of the project was released this summer.
With its global perspective, the British photographer’s project might be considered a sampling, albeit a tiny one, of what different cultures value with regards to education.
Is it frightening that a two-grade science class in Oklahoma contains only eight pupils? What does the artist’s choice in highlighting mathematics and natural sciences classes in South American countries suggest about the future of that part of the world?
There are also cultural clues at the periphery of some shots — a shorn corgi in Taiwan, a cardboard Michael Jordan cutout, students dressed in camouflaged clothing in the United States. Each picture provokes questions about the class environment and the society outside of school.
Germany, Düsseldorf, Year 7, EnglishThe Netherlands, Rotterdam, Secondary Group 3, Motor MechanicsCuba, Havana, Playa, Year 9, national television screening of film ‘Can Gamba’Argentina, Buenos Aires, San Fernando, Year 3 SecondaryTaiwan, Ruei Fang Township, Kindergarten, ArtTokyo, Japan, Grade 5, Classical JapaneseNigeria, Kano, Ooron Dutse, Senior Islamic Secondary Level 2, Social StudiesUSA, Oklahoma, Barnsdall, Grade 4 & 5, ScienceUSA, St Louis, Grade 4 & 5, GeographyUSA, Oklahoma, Avant, Grade 4 & 5 Social SciencesPeru, Tiracanchi, Secondary Grade 2, MathematicsPeru, Cusco, Primary Grade 4, MathematicsArgentina, Buenos Aires, Grade 4, Natural ScienceBrazil, Belo Horizonte, Series 6, MathematicsBrazil, Cipó, Series 4, GeographyBahrain, Saar, Grade 11, IslamicQatar, Grade 10, ReligionQatar, Grade 8, EnglishYemen, Sanaa, Secondary Year 2, EnglishYemen, Manakha, Primary Year 2, Science RevisionSaudi Arabia, Dammam, Kindergarden, ActivitiesHolland, Heerenveen, Secondary Year 1, Sports DayHolland, Drouwenermond, Primary Year 5, 6, 7 & 8, HistoryEngland, Wolsingham, Year 12, EnglishEngland, Erith, Year 10, EnglishEngland, Washington, Year 7 (first day), RegistrationEngland, Bradford, Year 7, ArtEngland, Keighley, Year 6, History Wales, Felindre, Reception and Years 1 & 2, Numeracy England, Seaham, Reception and Year 1, Structured Play
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Credit: Julian Germain