Kingsmead Eyes was the result of a unique collaboration between photographer Gideon Mendel and 28 pupils from Kingsmead School in Hackney which took place in 2009. The children documented their world over six months, photographing their friends, families, community and school to create an accomplished and vibrant body of work. At the same time Mendel undertook a parallel photographic engagement in the school and the Kingsmead Estate. Using old Rolleiflex cameras he made a portrait of every child in the school. These 249 portraits were all used in this video and assembled into a composite image for the exhibition. With the remarkable diversity and origins of these children in more than 46 countries this became a truly global portrait, taken in a small Hackney school. This video installation was part of the Kingsmead Eyes exhibition which was on display at the V&A Museum of Childhood between November 2009 and February 2010.
The Kingsmead Estate, home to many of the pupils, is recognised as among the highest 4% for deprivation in the UK. The estate has suffered from a negative reputation in the past but conditions have improved in recent years and regeneration initiatives have encouraged a stronger sense of community. The school has played a major role in this turnaround, striving to achieve the highest standards with academic achievement above the national average – all the more impressive considering that 85% of pupils speak English as a second language. The success and creativity of the school has long been a source of local pride. For this project the ten year-old pupils were trained in the use of digital cameras in a series of workshops led by photographer, Crispin Hughes.