Steve McQueen’s epic ‘Year 3 – A Portrait of London’ at Tate Britain

A must see show! This project involved making photographs of 76,000 seven and eight year-olds from 1,504 London schools in 3,128 images of the children arranged in classes with their teachers. It’s believed ‘Year 3’ is the most ambitious photographic study of citizenship ever undertaken. Each picture is made like a traditional school class photo with identical arrangements of the subjects except the backgrounds change according to where they were photographed and are displayed on the walls of Tate’s Duveen Gallery in large blocks. At first sight, from afar, the photo-blocks resemble sheets of giant postage stamps depicting vague, anonymous figures. Yet, on closer inspection one becomes aware of the individuality of the children and their teachers and the extraordinary diversity of London’s population..

‘Year 3’ was logistically complex, not only in the mechanics of making the photos but also the negotiation of the sensitive ethical and legal issues that arise from publishing images of children, such as parental permission, child protection and safeguarding. However, the work has resulted in an unprecedented number of young people coming to Tate Britain to see images of themselves and their classmates.
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At the end of the exhibition, the photos will be returned to the schools in which they were taken. Congratulations to our New Museum School partners A New Direction on their part in this fantastic project!.
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‘Year 3: A Portrait of London’ is on display at Tate Britain until 3 May..

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