When I first heard about the Julian Germain exhibition, The Future is Ours: Classroom Portraits 2004-2015, I thought it sounded quite interesting... but it didn't quite draw me in as much as some of the other exhibitions I have been to recently. I went all the way up to Tate Modern last weekend (look out for my post on that next) however sometimes one can be pleasantly surprised by the less ostentatious exhibitions. This is a perfect example. One of the most striking aspects of the photographs for me was how normal and in many ways how similar the classrooms and the students were. Yes there are differences too, obviously the classroom in Ethiopia was the antithesis of a Japanese class, but they all follow a familiar formula for educating the young people in our societies.
And the differences that are there, it is the small more subtle ones that leave a lasting impression; the tired look in the eyes of the Japanese cram school students; the difference in uniform between two schools in the same country; how one school in Taiwan looks more like an English school than another in Europe. Seeing the similarities across borders, the faces of tired, eager, bored, bright, playful, neat, messy children gives a snapshot of everyday life that for a moment seems at once strange and familiar. It may be an obvious thing to say but looking at these photographs, these children could be us, that could be me there in that burka, or that shirt and tie!
Suffice to say this an absolutely fascinating exhibition and one not to be missed. Follow the links to the Towner website for more information, or just head on down there. The Exhibition is FREE and is open until 10 January 2016, Tues-Sun 10-5.