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Haunting Images of "Where Children Sleep" From Around the World

By amywindsor |

Jasmine, 4, Kentucky, USA

When James Mollison, a documentary photographer, started working on a project about children’s rights, he didn’t want to just show “needy kids” in poverty. He thought back to the time when he was a child and it occured to him “that a way to address some of the complex situations and social issues affecting children would be to look at the bedrooms of children in all kinds of different circumstances.” Because all kids have to sleep somewhere and most kids want their bedrooms to reflect their interests and personalities. The children’s bedroom spaces are revealing of each child’s life and place in it, and it is impossible to look at the photos and not think of your own children and how they have claimed their space in the world.

The 56 diptychs in his book, Where Children Sleep,  cover a wide swath of children in all kinds of living situations and the overall effect is one that is haunting and a little disturbing. The children’s rooms are portrayed as their occupants desired, full of their belongings, personalities, and “cultural circumstance.” The children, in an effort to put them all on equal ground, were photographed in front of a neutral background.  Their outfits, striking in some cases, and eyes, striking in every case, are what will stay with you in the end.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I find the rooms of the children with the most advantages the most disturbing. Perhaps it is the excess of some in such stark contrast to the children who have so little? Is it that the photographs of the children, most without smiles, all look like they could be the kid down the street?

Note: Photos of the children and their rooms are placed side by side in the book, as a diptych. Because of the size constraint of photos in slideshows, I have had to separate the photos so you can see details in the rooms. I have placed the room first, followed by it’s occupant, throughout the slideshow.

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Haunting Photographs from

Kentucky, USA

With Jasmine's crowns and tiaras on the floor.

Photos: Where Children Sleep

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About amywindsor

amywindsor

amywindsor

Amy Windsor is an avid mommy blogger whose blog, Bitchin' Wives Club, was named one of Babble's Top 100 Mom Blogs in 2012. She was a contributor to Babble's Parenting channels.

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13 thoughts on “Haunting Images of "Where Children Sleep" From Around the World

  1. Ellie says:

    Old news. Somebody else at Babble already wrote about this earlier this summer.

  2. Lisa Rae @ smacksy says:

    Fascinating and haunting.
    Thank you.

  3. Lisa says:

    I was surprised by the child with the ax and the child with the gun. But the machine gun poster from the West Bank made me sad. That poster celebrates men who try to kill children.

  4. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    Repeat content is lame, editors.

  5. Cindy G says:

    This is the first time I’m seeing this and I don’t know which photos bother me more – the stocked rooms or the bare rooms, the faces on the kids or what the rooms tell about their lives. Painful to see and it makes me appreciate my children and what they have (and don’t have).

  6. Maggie says:

    “Her room looks like a cell” ? No, her room looks like a space carved out of a hallway at the top of the stairs, with the most ventilation possible and still protecting her from intrusion. I don’t know where this picture is, but in hot climates even these narrow bars can block a breeze.

    I’m not sure these rooms are all shown the way their occupants want them. A couple of them remind me of rooms my friends’ mothers bragged about to my mother when we were in 5th or 6th grade — rooms the mothers had furnished in fairytale style the way they thought they would have wanted them, themselves, at the same age. The occupants were compliant but by no means thrilled with all the gorgeous overdecorated stuff that they were instructed to play with so carefully.

  7. GAby says:

    i’m very sad to see this… but i think it makes me open my eyes to the reality we are living… what’s wrong with the world? what’s gonna happen in the future when these kids grow up? I’m glad this content was repeated!

  8. Valerie says:

    Repeat content or not the shocking photos all carry the same tune..children forced to grow up whether its the poor boy who sleeps on a couch or the little girl made to wear make up and taught so young that looks are all that matters its heart breaking. in an age of teen moms and lost child hoods its a haunting reminder of not only what you have for your child but that its your job to let them be a child

  9. Noetje says:

    @Lisa: I bet the people in Palestine will feel different about this.

    I myself found the boy with the entire array of weapons deeply disturbing. More than the poster from the West Bank. At least those people are fighting for their freedom. Even though I don’t always agree with their methods.

  10. MamaShoob says:

    So disturbing and creepy, the one with the cherry carpet was just plain horrific, but the ones with the guns on the wall and the child with the ax those made me speechless.

  11. guest says:

    I showed my daughter these photos & she said, “kids from America are spoiled. Not all, but most have alot than others”. She is so right!! We are very privilaged<—Just saying.

  12. Charmaine MacDonald says:

    Very interesting, weird, haunting and eerie some of them sad too. In Morocco most of the kids don’t have their own bedrooms, only the parents have a bedroom and the kids sleep in the lounge area on Moroccan couches, altho that isnt the case with all families, it applies to most. That is also strange for me since I grew up with my own room shared with my sister and it wasn’t overcrowded with things, just normal and fairly sparse, but that’s the way i liked it. Eye opening!

  13. Barbara says:

    “…in an effort to put them all on equal ground”? I suppose Jasmine should give up her bedroom and sleep on a rotten couch like the homeless boy of Brazil. Then they would be equal. BS. If you have never had anything, then you don’t know what you don’t have. Yes, we are very fortunate and most of us thankful. America cannot give every third-world country kid a fancy bedroom. If you feel so sorry and guilty, perhaps you would like to empty your personal bank account and donate..

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