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Teaching the Hidden City

Teaching the Hidden City

Providing cultural learning and skills development opportunities for young people is central to Culture Mile’s mission.

The district has particularly strong relationships with the City Family of Schools and so when lockdown began in March we were keen to support them to use our cultural resources for their online teaching. Together with The Hidden City’s photographer, Emile Holba and Ella James, Deputy Subject Leader of Art City of London Academy Highbury Grove  we developed an online photography module to support the teaching of A-Level and BTEC Art and Design. 

The Hidden City exhibition is a series of photographic triptychs which feature an object, a space and a portrait to reveal an undiscovered story about a range of City of London organisations. The course mirrored this approach and through a series of online workshops taught the students how to create their own triptych to reflect their lockdown environment and experience.

The collaboration between Emile and Ella allowed for both the input of a professional artist and the guidance of an experienced teacher. The resulting student’s work was so strong that an additional session, to which family and friends were also invited, was added to showcase the work and provide detailed feedback. 

“Working with Emile has been such a huge insight into the working processes of an artist. Through our collaboration, we learnt how to translate the creative process of location photography into a workable series of tasks for students…. I’m excited to interweave what I’ve learned and this new module into next years’ teaching, knowing the immensely positive impact a course such as this has on student outcomes.”

Ella James, Deputy Subject Leader Art, CoLA Highbury Grove


A selection of final triptychs

Belinda, Year 12:
I chose to do it this way because I felt as though the last picture, even though it features the same person as the first one, tells more of a story, our lockdown story. I didn't feel that a place would do the story justice... I did person, object, activity, I guess, as he's sunbathing council flat style in the last picture and that's honestly as real as it gets for his story in lockdown. The middle picture is supposed to have some aesthetic to it as the object’s placed in the middle of the sink, but the important thing about it is that you can see the window and the light coming through into a dark room in the mirror's reflection. This is significant as you can see the outside from the inside in a different light. When he washes his face every morning and night this is what he sees. The first picture is a portrait of the person whose lockdown story it is.

Fareeda, Year 12:
The bathroom is where I not just get ready, it's where I do my hair, creating my everyday look. It's where I care for my face and keep myself in a decent state. If you know me, it's where I spend a lot of time, maybe too much time.

Millie, Year 12

Ella, Year 12

Dizney, Year 12

It is my Mum's space/favourite place to be - curated by her, used by her, her first love and lifelong passion. She's constantly playing and making music as well as experimenting with new pieces of equipment...she is a DJ tutor in a school and rents out equipment. The space is a common room for us in which I know I can find her the majority of the time and it's a space where we can spend time together. Many of the objects in the room have personal meanings to her and represent her likes, style and identity.

Further detail on the content of the course can be found on Emile’s website