Allow me to re-cap...
January brought a workshop for Year 9 and 10 with the amazing Wandering Bears collective. Again, Dianne came up trumps with the contact, following a workshop she attended at The Photographers' Gallery. She asked them to attempt to repeat their 'Inside Out, Upside Down' activity with our Year 9 and 10 classes, something they'd not done before in a school setting. The idea is simple: students attempt to re-create several contemporary photographic compositions using a variety of intriguing props - fruit, bricks, plastic cups etc.
February was our PhotoPedagogy intervention at Tate Exchange. Simon Baker wrote a fantastic introduction to our newspaper and we received submissions from Dafna Talmor, Tom Oldham, Marysa Dowling, Daniel Donnelly, Mimi Mollica and Gregory Crewdson. Although we didn't get to work with her directly, Marysa paid a visit and the always supportive Tom Oldham popped in to lend words of encouragement. Chris has written about Tom's fantastic visit to St. Peter's on his blog. Tom also came along to our appearance at Offprint London in May. Our Post 16 photography students were brilliant, leading activities and looking for all the world like Tate Modern was their natural stomping ground. We were very proud teachers.
In June I was contacted by the lovely Victoria Batt who had contributed to Tate Exchange, who I follow on Instagram, who came along to Offprint for a chat and who had just completed an MA in photography at Central Saint Martins. Her Tate Exchange project had involved a performance featuring a dress made of Selfies so it was the perfect excuse to ask her (and her fellow MA graduate friend Will who also came along) to collaborate with Year 9 on their Selfie project. It was great for the students to meet Victoria and Will, fresh out of university and finding their way as artists. They were both very generous with their attention, kind and full of praise for the students' experiments.
Needless to say, his talk was captivating, beginning with the amazing Powers of 10 film by Charles and Ray Eames and taking us through each stage of his career with a mixture of thoughtful reflection, personal candour and entertaining stories. It might have been tempting for him to leave out some of the more intellectual elements of his practice but I was very grateful that he including everything in. The talk was pitched perfectly - just outside the easy reach of the students, encouraging them to think hard (the first sign that learning might be taking place) and imagine new possibilities for the medium.
I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank all the professionals with whom we have worked this year. I can't stress enough the value of getting professional practitioners into school. Don't be too proud. Beg for money if you have to. Stress the transformational impact of students (who are becoming artists) meeting the real deal, especially if your students have little or no experience of meeting artists in their everyday lives. All of our visitors have been inspiring, charming, encouraging and, most importantly, authentic. It's clear that they live and breath their practices, embodying the qualities essential for survival in an unpredictable world. We call these qualities the Tallis Habits - inquisitive, collaborative, persistent, disciplined and imaginative. Teachers obviously have a central role to play in modelling these qualities and encouraging students to be creative. But when this encouragement can be rubber stamped by a visiting practitioner, whether they are at the beginning of or in the latter stages of their careers, the effects can be profound.
Here's hoping 2017-18 provides yet more opportunities for us to meet the professionals.
Thomas Tallis School