Tag Archives: Yemen

Back to School: Classroom Portraits by Julian Germain

Regardless of where we grew up, most of us spent many of our formative years sitting in a classroom. Four walls with colorful pictures on them and a teacher at the front. The language, customs and native dress might differ from place to place, but British photographer Julian Germain, who has spent eight years photographing students in classrooms around the world, found the experience of going back-to-school is universal.

His collection, which spans Brazil, Nigeria, Yemen, Russia, Taiwan, England, America and others, provides a window inside the classrooms of the world. It also represents a new vision of the traditional class photo. “Every year, your class is photographed; a photographer comes in, lines you up in almost a military fashion, but in those pictures you never see the classroom,” says Germain. “They are usually made against a brick wall or a curtain or something so you never really get a look at the space. I had this idea to examine the space where kids learn, and at the same time, examine the kids.”

(See more in Reinventing College, TIME’s special package on education)

Germain began taking photos of classrooms in 2004, not long after his daughter started school. He started by photographing a handful of schools in the northeast region of England where he lives. The following year for a trip to Argentina for a separate assignment his project took an international turn. “It had not been planned in advance, it’s something that happened very organically,” he says. “At a certain point it became clear it would be interesting to photograph schools anywhere I could.” Some of those schools are now part of a book aptly titled, Classroom Portraits.

Education, as Germain notes, is not often the subject of art. “It’s amazing, if you look around museums and things, school is never there,” he says. “Artists frequently go into schools to make art with the children, but never really to make work with education as the theme.” To that end, Germain carefully choreographed each class, just as he would any other subject. He took his photos in the last 15 minutes of the lesson. He made sure each child was visible, but otherwise left the room just as it was. Since he was dealing with often squirrelly children, he didn’t have much time. In the days of film, he says he would only shoot between two and four exposures. Now, thanks to digital, he takes about 10. “They just can’t concentrate for longer than that,” he says.

Unlike your typical school photographer, Germain never yelled, “say cheese.” “I don’t tell them to do anything,” he says. “I just tell them that the exposure is quite long and they need to be ready. I never tell them to smile or adopt a certain mood. I just tell them they need to be ready.” The result is a classroom full of students who appear just as they would to a teacher standing in front of the class delivering a lecture. In fact, Germain thinks of the camera as the teacher. “It’s not that they don’t look happy, they just aren’t grinning like a cheshire cat—they are paying attention to the ‘teacher’,” he says. Which is why you won’t find a teacher in his photos—he prefers to only photograph the students. “I found if teachers are in, they dominate,” he says. “I like the idea that the images are very democratic. I give everybody space. As soon as the teacher goes in there it kind of messes that up. I wanted to make it all about the kids.”

Making the students the focus gives them a sort of power. Because he photographed the children at eye level, when flipping through his book hundreds of eyes stare back at you. “I find that quite challenging,” he says. Indeed, he says, the whole world children inhabit has been built by adults—the education system they are in, the clothes they’re wearing, the textbooks, their notebooks, pencils, pen, the blackboard, the furniture. “It says to me, we are responsible for the world they’re in,” he says. “There’s a lot of mumbling and grumbling and despair about what young people are like, but who’s responsible for that? We are.”

Classroom Portraits was published this summer by Prestel.

Kayla Webley is a staff writer at TIME.

The End of al-Qaeda? On Patrol in Yemen by Yuri Kozyrev

Yuri Kozyrev and I have spent more hours than we care to remember on ‘embed’ with the great militaries of the world—American, Russian, NATO, Indian. But a chance to travel with a Yemeni Central Security Force (CSF) patrol in the southern Abyan province had both of us filled with nervous excitement. We were keenly aware that Yemen, a desperately poor nation at the bottom of the Arabian Peninsula, doesn’t exactly have the best-equipped army. And yet this army had just dealt al-Qaeda a major military blow in Abyan, earning the respect of all soldiers who have fought against fanatical jihadists, and those of us who have covered those battles.

We were told to bring our own vehicle because the CSF patrol was comprised of a single Toyota pickup truck, and there was no room for passengers. We met our escort on the outskirts of the port of Aden on a day the temperature topped 120 degrees and the humidity, 90%. In that heat, Yuri and I were grateful that, unlike the U.S. military, the Yemeni CSF did not require us to wear body-armor: the soldiers had none themselves. But we knew we were going into towns and villages where many al-Qaeda fighters were still at large, living among the population and just waiting for a chance to strike at the Yemeni military. The leader of our patrol, 2nd Lieutenant Tariq Bishr, warned us that we could take sniper fire at any moment.

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The Sept. 17, 2012 cover of TIME International.

There was also a risk we could hit a landmine: the retreating jihadists had planted thousands of them on the roads leading to the major towns of Zinjibar and Jaar. In those towns, many homes and offices were booby-trapped, designed to kill civilians (many of whom had fled when al-Qaeda had taken over) as they came home.

But if any of this worried Yuri, he didn’t show it: I’ve known from working with him for a decade that he is unflinchingly fearless under fire. He quickly developed a rapport with the soldiers in our patrol, overcoming any concerns they may have had about having to baby-sit a pair of foreigners in a dangerous place. At the start of the patrol, Lieutenant Bishr and his men were nervous about Yuri’s camera, mainly because it attracted too much attention from bystanders. But within a couple of hours, the soldiers had become Yuri’s spotters, pointing out photo opportunities and posing for pictures themselves.

The result is this series of pictures, which offers a rare glimpse into an important battlefield in the war on terror. But it’s worth remembering these were only possible because of the valor of Lieutenant Bishr and his men.

Bobby Ghosh is an editor-at-large at TIME. Read his cover story from Yemen in this week’s issue of TIME here.

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

Pictures of the Week: July 27 – August 3

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From protests in Yemen and a religious festival inNicaraguato continued fighting in Syria and the summer Olympic games in London, TIME’s photo department presents the best pictures of the week.

Pictures of the Week: July 20 – July 27

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From drought-cracked earth in Yemen and massive floods in China to violent protests in California and Olympic preparation in London, TIMEs photo department presents the best images of the week.

Pictures of the Week: July 13 – July 20

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From America’s worst drought in 50 years and fierce fighting in Syria to the start of Ramadan, TIMEs photo department presents the best images of the week.

Pictures of the Week: June 1 – June 8

From the final journey of the space shuttle Enterprise in New York and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in London to a landmark trial in Egypt and the once-in-a-lifetime Transit of Venus, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Pictures of the Week: May 25–June 1

From Memorial Day observances in the U.S. and an exchange of bodies in the West Bank to the massacre in Syria and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in England, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Pictures of the Week: May 18 — May 25

From India’s Sufi Muslim Urs Festival and the first intercontinental flight of the Solar Impulse to a suicide bombing of military soldiers in Sana’a and the beginning of Egypt’s presidential election, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.