The five boys who came to illustrate the class divide. Photograph: Jimmy Sime/Getty Images

Ian Jack wrote a glorious piece in today’s Guardian about Jimmy Sime‘s iconic image.

‘The photograph that defined the class divide’ describes 70 years of misreadings and its use as illustration for shallow assessments of Britain’s class disparities.

Jack is masterful in his analysis because he keeps it based in fact. The consequent lives of the five boys (which are not what you’d expect) are ultimately the critical blow to all the users and abusers of Sime’s image down the years.

“When a newspaper had asked the three men to get together to reconstruct the picture at Lord’s, one of them refused. I could see why: which of us would want to be remembered as a stereotype, especially in a class war where we’re given no choice of sides?”

Jack doesn’t dismiss the notion that Britain is still divided by class. To the contrary he says that Britain remains the European nation with the biggest gap between rich and poor. He (and I) can see that these arguments about UK inequality are better made with relevant illustration and not this nostalgic claptrap that does nothing to inform or elaborate.

” If a photographer wanted to re-create Sime’s picture, he might be faced with five boys dressed much the same, in jeans and brand names. Giving a superficial impression of equality, the picture would be even more of a lie than before.”

Just to prove the entrenched and idle use of Sime’s photo right up to present day, Jack finishes with this:

“What picture accompanied the Daily Telegraph’s report in January 2010? Sime’s, of course; the same as Picture Post had published in January 1941. There they were again: Wagner, Dyson, Salmon, Catlin and Young, doomed for ever to represent our continuing social tragedy.”

Brilliant stuff!