Towner is delighted to present the UK Premiere of British photographer and artist Julian Germain’s exhibition, The Future is Ours.
Germain became interested in education as a theme when his own children started school. He realised that despite being an almost universal experience, school was virtually unexplored in visual art and that traditional school photographs actually reveal very little about school. Using the conventional ‘class photo’ as a starting point, Germain began to formulate his own approach, which was entirely dependent on the collaboration and concentration of the pupils, making painstakingly choreographed and richly detailed photographs of the students, as well as their learning environments.
Over the next 8 years he produced 'classroom portraits' featuring thousands of children, adolescents and young adults in 19 countries; the UK, Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Hungary, Bangladesh, USA, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen, Japan and Taiwan.
In 2011, Germain also began to make short 'classroom video portraits', which attempt to explore the experience of being photographed and the contrasting nature of moving and still images.
Occasionally, Germain asked the pupils to fill in questionnaires of serious as well as playful questions, creating an additional layer of information beyond the reach of photography, a statistical snapshot of the children’s likes and dislikes, their expectations, hopes and dreams.
This major exhibition at Towner Art Gallery will display 200 objects including framed photographs, videos, prints, Polaroids, and customised books.
The exhibition will also show specially created portraits of four Eastbourne schools that Germain recently visited and photographed: West Rise Junior School; The Cavendish School; The Bishop Bell School and Motcombe Community School.
The photographs and films in The Future is Ours inevitably refer to the past, but questions about the future are fundamental to this exhibition because the pictures are all of children and adolescents who have their lives ahead of them. They will become doctors, hairdressers, cooks, rickshaw drivers, photographers - any number of destinies awaits them. There are potential millionaires and celebrities, and the law of averages suggests there are certain to be criminals too. Some, may already have died and others will have borne children of their own.
While Julian Germain has created a photographic survey of the similarities and differences in contemporary education across countries, cultures and social classes, his work also has the potential to trigger all kinds of responses and memories from anyone who has been to school, referring each of us to our own personal experiences.