The First Day

In honour of the coming of autumn, the new academic year, pristine school uniforms and countless pairs of as yet unscuffed shoes. A few pictures, to remind those of us who no longer go through this ritual, of how we once felt on our first day back to school.

Ever since working on Once More, with Feeling I've been collecting photographs of children dressed in school uniform, posing for a first day snapshot. I pick up the photos wherever I find them, so I don't know who most of the subjects or their photographers are. But I suspect that the majority are taken by an apprehensive parent, of an also apprehensive offspring, who is desperately trying to remain composed beneath a façade of bluster or apathy.

The location selected as a suitable backdrop is most often the garden or outside the home, indicating that this is a quick snapshot, not really something that is necessarily thought through at any great length. The image of the boy in front of the patterned material is the only exception: this was found on the web. These photos are documentary gestures: they're not about anything more than capturing that moment just before everything changes (as we are apt to believe it will when we get sent off to school). Sometimes the pictures might also be taken after the big day, when our progression to adulthood has already taken its first faltering steps.

I look at those kids' faces and their postures: mixed signals, from fear to pride, glee to boredom, reluctance to delight, and I know I experienced all of that. School really is both the beginning and the end.

I collect these photos with a view to making a project about them, so if you'd like to submit your old school photo to be added to the collection, please email me. All photographs will be credited where possible.