Portraits of 4th Graders Around the World Tell Very Different Stories

Photographer Judy Gelles traveled around the world to ask 4th graders from China, India and the United States three questions: With whom do you live? What do you wish for? What do you worry about?

Their answers are as varied as their socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds, and run the gamut emotionally from charming to horribly sad. In every one of the photos below, the children are faced away from the camera, leaving us to wonder not only who they currently are but who they might grow up to be. The poses of their young bodies tell us much about them, too, as do the school environments they were photographed in.

Read through Gelles’ “word portraits” and leave your reaction in the comments below:

  • Private Quaker School, USA 1 of 18

    "My life is good. I feel lucky."

  • Private Quaker School, USA II 2 of 18

    "My dentist is very nice. Everybody likes him."

  • School for Migrant Children, China 3 of 18

    "One day I would like to visit Shanghai."

  • School for Migrant Children, China II 4 of 18

    "I want to grow up fast so I can be a fourth grade teacher."

  • Jewish Day School, USA 5 of 18

    "My worst fear is to be on an airplane and have it crash."

  • Jewish Day School, USA II 6 of 18

    "I worry that my parents will forget about me when I am older. I love my parents."

  • Jewish Day School, USA III 7 of 18

    "I worry about being on time."

  • Urban Public School, USA 8 of 18

    "My wish is for my grandparents to visit us from Bolivia. I worry about them. They don't have enough money."

  • Urban Public School, USA II 9 of 18

    "My wish is for my uncle to get out of jail. I worry about him. The other prisoners beat him."

  • Urban Private School, USA 10 of 18

    "My life is good."

  • Urban Private School, USA II 11 of 18

    "I have no worries."

  • Urban Private School, USA III 12 of 18

    "I have no worries."

  • Another Urban Public School, USA 13 of 18

    "I wish we could live in Vietnam."

  • Another Urban Public School, USA II 14 of 18

    "I can't wait to go."

  • Another Urban Public School, USA III 15 of 18

    "I don't think anybody should carry a gun ... even the cops. Then nobody would get shot."

  • Another Urban Public School, USA IV 16 of 18

    "Then I would be all alone."

  • English-Speaking Private School, India 17 of 18

    "I want to be a software engineer."

  • English-Speaking Private School, India II 18 of 18

    "My wish is to be happy."

All images via Judy Gelles. I found her work via Flavorwire. Visit Gelles’ site to see more of her “fourth grade project,” which is available for exhibition. Gelles is available to lecture on the project.


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