Schoolgirls challenge harassment with these remarkable posters

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These remarkable images created by children of a primary school in London show how much young people can achieve when their creativity is supported. Photographer Karina Walton worked with an all-girl group to create these instructional posters for the school – instructional for boys.

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The project came about when some of the girls came to Walton. Their proposal was to produce some work in response to verbal and physical harassment they experienced in school – harassment that Walton notes amounted to sexism and racism. In the workshops that followed, the girls had free reign to choose the subject matter, poses, lettering and design.

The resulting images owe their power to the participatory process which Walton facilitated. I’m particularly intrigued by three factors that contributed to their success:

  • The participants worked in a safe space protected from the oppression they were trying to challenge. The children felt that as the issue was with boys, no boys should be involved in the creation process. On reflection, the children felt this gave them increased confidence in the workshop as they were not worried about the boys taking control of the equipment or laughing at their activities.
  • The facilitator brought in examples of other relevant work that the participants could draw upon for inspiration. In this case, one of the children was particularly interested in the use of lettering in Barbara Kruger’s work. She remarked on how the words “jumped out at you”, and Kruger’s work subsequently informed the bold text in the final posters.
  • The participants could influence all elements of the photographic process, including medium, location, and the layout and content of each photo. For example, the children chose black and white film as they felt it was more suited to serious content, whereas colour film was suitable for “happier photos”.

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Produced in 1989 with pupils from Snowsfields Primary, the posters have a direct intensity that still rings true today. By focusing on their own experiences and creating a personal response, the girls created images whose meaning echoes far beyond the environment they were created for.

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Further reading, images and quotes: Kamina Walton, “Creating Positive Images: working with primary school girls”. From What Can a Woman do with a Camera? Ed. Jo Spence and Joan Solomon. Scarlet Press, London, 1995. Images are © their creators and displayed here for education and inspiration.

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