Julian Germain has been photographing classes of school children (initially in the North East of England) since 2004, aiming to create a record of what classroom environments look like today as well as a series of group portraits of pupils growing up in that environment.

In 2007, as part of the British Council’s on-going programme of arts activities in the Arab world, Germain was commissioned to include the Middle East in the series. This year, as part of a series of events to mark the 75th anniversary of the British Council, the commission was extended in order to encourage even deeper intercultural dialogue and to cover a wider range of countries including Bangladesh, Japan, Taiwan, Nigeria and Ethiopia. Many of the schools are involved in the British Council international education programme Connecting Classrooms; the portraits being used to enrich the relationships between the schools.

Germain’s work is non-judgmental. He is interested in schools as they provide shared, collective formative experiences both within and between generations and cultures, allowing even complete strangers to find common ground and understanding. As well as exploring the physicality – the buildings, classrooms, uniforms, and children – Germain also documents the habits, likes and dislikes of the students through questionnaires. The information gathered, placed alongside the portraits, becomes a valuable exchangeable tool for conversation, broadening perceptions and stimulating creative thought on identity among students and audiences worldwide.

The British Council would like to thank Julian Germain, the schools in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Japan and the UK who welcomed him into their classrooms for this new series of portraits, which will ultimately contribute to a collection of global classroom portraits to be published by SteidlMack in 2011.