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How Children Learn: Portraits of Classrooms Around the World

A revealing lens on a system-phenomenon both global in reach and strikingly local in degree of diversity.

Since 2004, Julian Germain has been capturing the inner lives of schools around the world, from England to Nigeria to Qatar, in his large-scale photographs of schoolchildren in class. Classroom Portraits (public library) is part Where Children Sleep, part Bureaucratics, part What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets, part something else entirely — a poignant lens on a system-phenomenon that is both global in reach and strikingly local in degree of peculiarity, revealed through more than 450 portraits of schoolchildren from 20 countries.

Jessore, Bangladesh. Year 10, English.
Image courtesy Julian Germain
Brazil, Belo Horizonte, Series 6, Mathematics
Image courtesy Julian Germain
USA, St Louis, Grade 8, Geography
Image courtesy Julian Germain
Nigeria, Kano, Ooron Dutse, Senior Islamic Secondary Level 2, Social Studies
Image courtesy Julian Germain
Taiwan, Ruei Fang Township, Kindergarten, Art
Image courtesy Julian Germain
St. Petersburg, Russia. Year 2, Russian
Image courtesy Julian Germain

The extent of concentration and mutuality required for each portrait offer a beautiful metaphor for the teaching-learning process itself. Germain writes:

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.

In order to achieve sharp focus in both fore- and background, the exposure time is usually a quarter or half a second so the pupils have to be ready for the moment the shutter is released. I am waiting for them and they are waiting for me. The process itself generates an atmosphere and the time captured in the portrait seems significant.

England, Seaham, Reception and Year 1, Structured Play
Image courtesy Julian Germain
Tokyo, Japan, Grade 5, Classical Japanese
Image courtesy Julian Germain
Havana, Cuba. Year 2, Mathematics.
Image courtesy Julian Germain
Lagos, Nigeria. Basic 7 / Junior Secondary Level 1, Mathematics
Image courtesy Julian Germain
England, Keighley, Year 6, History
Image courtesy Julian Germain
England, Washington, Year 7 (first day), Registration
Image courtesy Julian Germain
Holland, Drouwenermond, Primary Year 5, 6, 7 & 8, History
Image courtesy Julian Germain
Qatar, Grade 8, English
Image courtesy Julian Germain
Bahrain, Saar, Grade 11, Islamic
Image courtesy Julian Germain
Peru, Cusco, Primary Grade 4, Mathematics
Image courtesy Julian Germain
Cuba, Havana, Playa, Year 9, national television screening of film ‘Can Gamba’ (about Cuban participation in Angolan Revolution)
Image courtesy Julian Germain
The Netherlands, Rotterdam, Secondary Group 3, Motor Mechanics
Image courtesy Julian Germain
Yemen, Manakha, Primary Year 2, Science Revision
Image courtesy Julian Germain
Argentina, Buenos Aires, Grade 4, Natural Science
Image courtesy Julian Germain

(Is it just me, or do the kids in Natural Science class seem most mischievously engaged? Perhaps every child is a scientist.)

Complement Classroom Portraits with where kids around the world sleep and what they eat.

feature shoot


Published August 20, 2012

https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/08/20/classroom-portraits-julian-germain/

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