Our kind of thing...Subject focus

7th June 2002, 1:00am
Jennifer Thomas


Our kind of thing...Subject focus

We were excited: an exhibition of our photographs in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London! Reigate School, Surrey, has had a close relationship for some time with nearby photographic equipment manufacturer Canon (UK), which sponsors a gallery at the Vamp;A. We have done various link projects, but one day Vince Braint, Canon's general marketing manager, came up with this ambitious suggestion.

It was a welcome challenge. Our starting point was a visit to the Vamp;A's current exhibition, "Seeing Things: photographing objects". In the "People and Things" section we particularly admired the Christine Keeler chair pose and a wonderful Marlene Dietrich portrait .

We were invited to present a collection using the same theme as the exhibition, but our "things" would be photographed around the school.

Gerard Kirwan, the school's director of communications, and art teacher Julie Gorham led the project. Since we don't have a GCSE photography option, we chose a group of 11 more able students from Years 9 and 10, whom we thought were likely to display creativity and initiative. Their work would also have to be done in out-of-school hours, so we had to be sure we could sustain their interest. It would be a new experience for pupils and teachers.

Mark Haworth-Booth, the photographic curator of the Vamp;A, came to school with Lisa Atfield, our contact at Canon, to talk about the project with the staff.

We took our group to see the exhibition at the Vamp;A. It was really exciting for them to see the space allocated to Reigate School - a wall right next to the entrance to the main photography gallery .

Using two digital Canon cameras which we had already used for previous link projects, the group photographed people and places around the school. Late one evening, I heard whispered discussions outside my office and found four students taking shots of my doorbell and buzzer system. I couldn't see how this would make an artistic photo until I saw it later with colour and image enhancement. Amusingly, the explanatory text reflected the feelings of students who may have waited anxiously outside.

The group used Paint Shop Pro software to manipulate the photographs, and sent them to Mark Haworth-Booth to make his selection. We decided the best way to do this was to create a CD-Rom, as it would take too long to email them. We waited anxiously to hear whether he shared our delight in the students' achievements. He did, and the exhibition was set up just after Easter.

In school we have displayed the photographs on the monitor in the foyer, which usually holds news and features about the school, using PowerPoint. It has created much interest among students and visitors alike.

Our project gave us a new area of expertise in manipulating digital images and I hope other students will want to develop these skills.

The Vamp;A is already an established destination for our art department visit. Now the Canon Photography Gallery will form part of this. It has become accessible and exciting - a real enrichment for the school.

Jennifer Thomas is deputy head at Reigate High School, Surrey Email: j.thomas@reigate-school.surrey.sch.uk

The students taking part were: Cleo Bigwood, Tiffany Hill-Jones, Laura Humphries, Morgan James, Kirsty Lawrence, Stewart Lewes, Ross Maclachlan, Toby Pearson, Claire Saxby, Robyn Smith, Rosie Westwell.Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RLTel: 020 7942 2000

www.vam.ac.ukSeeing Things: photographing objects 1850-2001, until August 18


I'm sitting outside,


Waiting for the news,

Engaged . .

Engaged . .

Arranging my fate

It says wait . .

I wait . .

It says enter . . .

I'm obliged to enter . . .

You wouldn't think a little box,

Could control my life, and my fate.


They walk,

They run,

They sit,

They walk,

They run,

They sit

What's the point in keeping them clean and tidy?


This was inspired by Magritte's picture, "Golconda", which depicts Magritte himself, raining onto a row of houses. "Bin-da-blue" states the emphasis on tidiness at our school. It also continues the theme of the colour blue in the display.

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