The Common Tongue of Twenty-First-Century London

Not long after my family settled into a new home, near Hampstead Heath, I went south to the Tate Britain museum, on the bank of the Thames, to see an ambitious project undertaken by the British artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen. He had made a collective portrait of London by photographing its Year Three students—second grade, in the British system. All the city’s elementary schools—public, private, faith-based, special-needs—were invited to participate, and more than fifteen hundred of them agreed to have photographers deputized by McQueen take a class picture. The result, called “Year 3,” is an assemblage of more than three thousand images, featuring seventy-six thousand children.