Colour Coordination For A School Picture (And We're Not Talking About Attire)

By Jemimah Steinfeld Last edited 128 months ago
Colour Coordination For A School Picture (And We're Not Talking About Attire)

rsz_1pantone.jpgChildren, children, Londonist wants to play a little game with you: it’s called “How to make you cry in one single snapshot.” The rules are pretty simple: you come equipped with your best smiles for the next school piccie and we’ll wipe them off your face instantly: black kids over there please ... yes, you ... Oh and you look a little dark of skin – over there as well please. Still smiling? Alright, Jewish kids to the left, Muslim kids to the right. Isn’t this a fun game? The teachers of Sandhurst Junior School in Lewisham certainly thought so. Yesterday a photographer convinced them to colour coordinate more than 100 children aged between 7 and 11 for a school photograph, placing darker children further back.

Londonist doesn’t really need to awaken Martin Luther King to tell you what’s wrong with this picture - literally. We mean, who does this photographer think he is? Mario Testino? Oh no, we’re fairly certain Testino wouldn't double-think when placing Naomi and Helena within the same lense. It’s far more likely this photographer is a surviving relic from the nineteenth century, a time when the civil rights movement was but a distant dream and arbitrary discrimination based on one’s colour was the order of the day.

Unsurprisingly, several of the tots returned home crying – contrary to what head teacher Val Hughes remarked. The Evening Standard reports:

One angry mum said: "My 10-year-old was told to go further back in the line as she was not white enough. She came home devastated saying, 'I wish my skin was lighter mummy.'"

Another parent, Ann Andrew, 49, said her daughter, Angela, 10, came home in tears and said: "My school's so racist."

All in all, it’s been quite a dreary week for the country’s nippers, what with reports of parental warnings against obese kids announced on Monday and now this. The government might as well open up free therapy clinics all around since we’re clearly going to have an even more messed up, image-neurotic future generation.

Photo courtesy of Ewanr's flickr photostream. We at Londonist suggest that Sandhurst consider for their next photoshoot aligning the children in a gradiated manner, like a human patone reference card and then entering it into the Turner prize.

Last Updated 24 October 2007


The photographer almost certainly wasn't being racist, at least not in the sense people generally use that word. Your tongue-in-cheek suggestion about entering a photograph for the Turner prize is probably close to the mark: not that he was considering such a thing, simply that he thought it would look artistic, and perhaps even highlight the diversity of the school. After all, school photographs are regularly arranged by height in order that it looks neat and coherent, why not skin colour?

Of course, merely asking that question almost immediately indicates the answer: because it's a downright stupid thing to do, given the connotations of any divisions by race and the sensitivity people rightly have about it. Particularly for a children's school photo, where the chances of it either upsetting a child or resulting in an indignant parent are huge.


I've got to agree, it would have looked very artistic... but what's suprising is that the teachers didn't pipe up at the crying children and STOP this from happening - especially seeing the distress it caused some of the kids.

It reminds me of the age old experiment when kids with blonde hair and blue eyes sit on one side of the class and dark eyed kids to sit on the other - never a positive result but always a lesson well learnt if it's done properly and with care and attention - not by a snap happy photographer who doesn't know anything about the children or teaching I would imagine.