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Jun302014

Eton

WRITER Leanne Cloudsdale

Who doesn’t love a good snoop round someone else’s bedroom? I know I do. When I came across Ian Macdonald’s grainy black and white exposé of one of the world’s most famous educational institutions, it was like delving into a social class treasure trove. Modest portraits of future world rulers in politics, law and commerce set against bedroom posters of the periodic table and the obligatory bikini clad models. Being a fiercely proud product of state school education, I’ve always been weighed down with a hefty chip on my shoulder about any form of non-meritocratic success. But, for some unfathomable reason, this particular institution has always been exempt from my loathing and vitriol, and I’ve always looked upon the place with a genuine, inquisitive curiosity. Macdonald was artist in residence for a year, which goes some way to explain the intimacy conveyed in most of the shots. Steely, confident, pubescent pretty boys with inherited cheekbones and aquiline noses appear relaxed and casual in their starched winged collars and tailcoats. Terrible shoes, sporting injuries and badly applied hair product trick us into thinking these kids are actually going to grow up to be just normal, regular people. This former charity school, founded in 1440 by King Henry VI has educated 19 British Prime Ministers over the centuries, a veritable training ground for those whose lifestyles on departure will no doubt be loaded with power, wealth and influence. Macdonald’s candid portraits of the privileged few are unlike more commonly seen representations that depict the school’s population as revered, staid and serious, he captures elements of the unguarded with house-master, pupil and environment.

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