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

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.

  • Kentucky, USA 1 of 24
    Kentucky, USA
    With Jasmine's crowns and tiaras on the floor.
  • Jasmine, 4 2 of 24
    Jasmine, 4
    Jasmine has competed in over 100 child pageants.
  • Rio De Janeiro, Brazil 3 of 24
    Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
    This one breaks my heart.
  • Alex, 9 4 of 24
    Alex, 9
    Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
  • Hebron, The West Bank 5 of 24
    Hebron, The West Bank
    Note the machine guns on the poster.
  • Douha, 10 6 of 24
    Douha, 10
    Hebron, The West Bank
  • Darvel, Scotland 7 of 24
    Darvel, Scotland
    Rhiannon's room.
  • Rhiannon, 14 8 of 24
    Rhiannon, 14
    Darvel, Scotland
  • Tokyo, Japan 9 of 24
    Tokyo, Japan
    Kaya's room.
  • Kaya, 4 10 of 24
    Kaya, 4
    Lives with her parents in a tiny apartment in Tokyo, Japan.
  • Harlan County, USA 11 of 24
    Harlan County, USA
    Alyssa's room.
  • Alyssa, 8 12 of 24
    Alyssa, 8
    Her little wooden house is in Appalachia.
  • Katmandu, Nepal 13 of 24
    Katmandu, Nepal
    Her room looks like a cell.
  • Prena, 14 14 of 24
    Prena, 14
    Works as a domestic in Katmandu.
  • New York City, USA 15 of 24
    New York City, USA
    Top Floor of a Fifth Avenue apartment
  • Jaime, 9 16 of 24
    Jaime, 9
    Jaime's family also owns houses in Spain and the Hamptons.
  • Tokyo, Japan 17 of 24
    Tokyo, Japan
    Ryutu,s room.
  • Ryutu, 10 18 of 24
    Ryutu, 10
    Ryutu is a champion sumo wrestler.
  • Senegal 19 of 24
    A room in a village Koranic school
  • Lamine, 12 20 of 24
    Lamine, 12
    He shares the school room with several boys.
  • Kentucky, USA 21 of 24
    Kentucky, USA
    Joey's room.
  • Joey, 11 22 of 24
    Joey, 11
    Joey killed his first deer when he was only 7.
  • New Jersey, USA 23 of 24
    New Jersey, USA
    Delanie's room.
  • Delanie, 9 24 of 24
    Delanie, 9
    Delanie hopes to be a fashion designer some day.

Photos: Where Children Sleep

Article Posted 5 years Ago
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