In secondary education we work with young people who take more photographs than any previous generation and discard an equally large number of images. The idea that the photographic image can have a sense of design, a sense of meaning or of social context or importance is often quickly lost.
A number years ago I saw (together with two of the classes I taught at the time) an exhibition of the work of Michel Szulc Krzyzanowski and his ‘Most Beautiful People’ project. I was instantly taken by the simplicity of the project and saw clearly how the same simplicity and the social edge the project has attracted the attention of the pupils. In the fixed format of three photographs and a simple series of questions so much information is given. It invites us to ask the same questions about ourselves and make comparisons.
The differences between our own situation and others on the other side of the world are often huge, but when the social ‘mirror’ is turned, we all want to see ourselves and be seen by others as beautiful seems quite universal. Some of the reasons people give as to why they consider themselves to be a beautiful person are hugely revealing, others are humorous and still others are simply familiar.
The accompanying photographs tell their own stories and provide the ideal springboard for a relatively simple schools photography project. I stick to the exact same format with my own pupils, having shown them the work of Szulc Krzyzanowski. The photographs are always interesting to see, and once in a while someone comes up with a real gem of a reason as to why they see themselves to be beautiful,