Where Children Sleep: Art and Social Awareness

by Anna Blanch on August 11, 2011

 

I came across a series of stunning photos, courtesy of this NY Times article, about the lives of Children around the world. They are the work of James Mollison, 37, a documentary photographer who was born in Kenya and now lives in Venice. He remembers the luxury he had as a boy of adapting his bedroom to reflect his changing interests.

Mr. Mollison’s new book, “Where Children Sleep,” had its origins in a project undertaken for a children’s charity several years ago. As he considered how to represent needy children around the world, he wanted to avoid the common devices: pleading eyes, toothless smiles. When he visualized his own childhood, he realized that his bedroom said a lot about what sort of life he led. So he set out to find others.

The blurb for the book is as follows:

Where Children Sleep- stories of diverse children around the world, told through portraits and pictures of their bedrooms. When Fabrica asked me to come up with an idea for engaging with children’s rights, I found myself thinking about my bedroom: how significant it was during my childhood, and how it reflected what I had and who I was. It occurred to me 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. From the start, I didn’t want it just to be about ‘needy children’ in the developing world, but rather something more inclusive, about children from all types of situations. It seemed to make sense to photograph the children themselves, too, but separately from their bedrooms, using a neutral background. My thinking was that the bedroom pictures would be inscribed with the children’s material and cultural circumstances ‘ the details that inevitably mark people apart from each other ‘ while the children themselves would appear in the set of portraits as individuals, as equals ‘ just as children. This selection of diptych’s from 56 in the book (Chris Boot November 2010). The book is written and presented for an audience of 9-13 year olds ‘ intended to interest and engage children in the details of the lives of other children around the world, and the social issues affecting them, while also being a serious photographic essay for an adult audience.

 

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