Photography is child’s play

IN FOCUS Photographer Janet Myers.   Picture: Allan Hutchings (113255-482)
IN FOCUS Photographer Janet Myers. Picture: Allan Hutchings (113255-482)

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Sitting with his chin resting on his hand and a bashful smile spread across his angelic face, four-year-old Joe Bleach looks picture perfect.

Meanwhile Isaac Homewood, aged three, is a true superhero as his caped silhouette dashes across the backdrop of a romantic mural of Southsea.

Four-year-old Alina Pilsworth is sticking her tongue out as she finds herself engrossed in the task of helping a snail back into a pot.

These are just a few of the affectionate snapshots of life at Brambles Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Southsea that have been captured by former primary teacher and educational psychologist Janet Myers.

Now the mother-of-two is exhibiting around 70 photographs taken at the nursery, showing children from six months to five years playing, learning and interacting with staff.

She says: ‘I love working with children and observing the way they interact with each other and with their teachers, and how they learn.

‘All the photographs are completely natural. Some of them are incredibly emotional and intense, but there were no props and I didn’t set anything up. ‘

Janet adds: ‘Joe, who struck a very intense and mature pose on the chair, just came over to me and sat down. He was brilliant.’

Her daughter, Marianne, two, attends Brambles and son Stanley, five, also went there before he moved on to Meon Infants.

Describing how the idea of recording the lives of nursery children first came to her, Janet says: ‘I was dropping Marianne off when I looked around and saw all these parents and it occurred to me that they have no idea about their children’s lives in schools.

‘I thought to myself: ‘‘Wouldn’t it be lovely to document what life is like for their children at a nursery because it is such an important and exciting time for them.’’

She adds: ‘As a parent of young children, it has surprised me how little we know about our children’s day-to-day experience in educational settings.

‘When working as a teacher and educational psychologist, I think I took it for granted that I was able to gain a clear impression of how our teachers and children interact and learn together, witnessing or being a part of special moments when a child develops and masters a new skill for the first time or takes a step towards independence.

‘I was thrilled when the nursery said yes to the project, and I’m grateful to all the staff and parents for their support.’

Since February 44-year-old Janet, who lives in Milton, has been visiting Brambles to take pictures.

Experience as an educational psychologist in London has given her a strong instinct, which helps guide her to anticipate the best shots.

She explains: ‘I’d just observe the children and talk to them. I’d play alongside them and try to draw them out a little bit.

‘An interesting part of the day is free play, when children can choose what they want to do.

‘That is the time when they are really creative, but some children do the same things like dress up in a certain outfit or play with bricks – my son liked that.

‘But they all have such individual personalities and it has been such a pleasure to photograph them.’

Janet says: ‘Importantly, the children are encouraged to learn through play, to follow their instincts and pursue activities that interest them as individuals, enabling them to develop a wide range of skills and, of course, have lots of fun.’

She says she hopes the exhibition will give everybody, not just parents, a wider understanding of what goes on in nurseries and how the environment encourages social development and learning language.

Janet explains: ‘Brambles is an example of really good practice and the children there take off and blossom. I want to share that with the public.

‘But even if there is no educational interest, I think one look at the pictures will really brighten up anyone’s day!’

n A Day In The Life Of...The Brambles Children’s Centre is at the Third Floor Arts Centre, Norrish Central Library, Guildhall Square, Portsmouth until September 28. Admission is free and the exhibition will is open Mon 10am-7pm, Tue and Wed 9am-7pm, Thurs 9am-5pm, Sat 10am-3pm. Closed on Fri and Sun.

Janet is keen to do similar projects in other schools in the city. Contact her at janetmyersphotography.com.

n Janet took the photos for the exhibition in black and white for artistic effect.