Thousands of little faces gaze out of group photos of Year 3 Classes and fill the main hall at Tate Britain with glorious smiles, pulled faces, quizzical expressions and the promise of all their futures. Artist Steve McQueen has initiated a wonderful project with Tate, Artangel and A New Direction to capture some 76,146 of London’s seven and eight year olds. It’s fabulous.

As a parent I have a bottom drawer filled with these kinds of photos – a class of children (one of them is mine, obviously) arranged on benches, chairs and sitting cross-legged on the floor, flanking their teacher and gazing at a photographer. Or not! The glory of these photographs is that how ever uniform you try to make them there’s always one, or several, who are looking the wrong way, scratching their nose, poking a fellow student or just not opening their eyes.


Steve McQueen has elevated these familiar groupings of seven year old children into the realms of art.  The very enormity of this project is breathtaking.  Walk into Tate Britain’s main hall way and you see thousands of small faces staring at you.


He sent an army of photographers to two thirds of all the primary schools in London to capture these small portraits.  What’s not to like – there’s something so enchanting about children at this age. Their little characters are well developed, their features are all there and the adult is just waiting to emerge.  And you can work out relationships between the children by the closeness or the shared jokes or stifled giggles.

Portrait of Steve McQueen in Year 3 at Tate Britain (1) ©Tate. Photo Jessica McDermott


The show will be in place until 3 May 2020 so there’s plenty of time to see this show along with a visit to other art at the gallery.  And look out for the huge posters on billboards all around London. They’re just such fun.


And finally. I thought I’d add a photo of me at the age of seven.  There was no class picture taken, that I remember, but just a solo picture against the blackboard in our class room at the old village school in North Hinksey, Oxford.  But I can see so much of myself in that young face and really don’t feel much older, despite the many decades which have passed since that photo was taken!

@Tate @ Artangel @A_New_Direction   Year3Project

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