James Mollison's "Where Children Sleep"

James Mollison is a photographer born in Kenya, but who has lived most of his life in England and Italy. He is an accomplished photographer who has been published in numerous prestigious publications and has published his own books. One of which is called “Where Children Sleep,” published in November 2010.  

“Where Children Sleep” is a book that tells the stories of diverse children from around the world and their bedrooms through photographs. Mollison came up with the idea for photographing children’s bedrooms when he was asked to do a piece about children’s rights. This got him thinking about his own identity as a child and how so much of that was wrapped up in his personal space, his bedroom. This led to the “Where Children Sleep” project where Mollison traveled the world in order to capture a wide range of different children and their varying experiences. He didn’t want to only photograph children in need, but aimed to represent a more complete cross section of situations, from a rich child of New York City to a homeless boy living outside of Rome with his family.

Jaime is 9 years old and lives in a 5th Avenue apartment with his parents. They also have homes in Spain and the Hamptons. 

This 4 year old boy lives just outside of Rome, Italy and share this mattress with his family.

Mollison purposefully photographed each child on a neutral background in order to capture them just as children and to allow their bedrooms and belongings to speak for themselves. Even with the neutral backgrounds the differences in culture, lifestyle, and wealth or lack thereof, is evident in their expressions, clothing and general state of being. 

Nantio is 15 years old and a member of the Rendille tribe of Northern Kenya. Her family's home is a tent-like structure made of cattle hide and plastic. She shares it with her family, including 3 siblings. 

This is 9 year old Dong, who lives in the Yunnan Province in China. He shares this room with his parents, his grandfather and his sister. 

One of the very striking things about the series is the differences that exist between children of the same country, like these three children from Brazil (pictured below) and these two children from the West Bank (also pictured below). 

This is Erien, who is 14 years old and lives in a favela in Rio de Janiero.

Ahkohxet is an 8 year old from the Kraho tribe in the Brazilian Amazon basin. 

Thais is 11 years old and lives in the Cidade de Deus neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.

Douha is 10 years old and lives with her parents and her 11 siblings in a Palestinian refugee camp in Hebron in the West Bank. 

Tzvika is 9 years old and lives in an apartment in an Israeli settlement called Beitar Illit in the West Bank with his parents and three siblings. 

Another striking aspect of the series is the children who work doing manual labor. Those photographs seen alongside photographs of seemingly carefree kids with rooms full of toys really give voice to the stark differences in our world. 

Indira is 7 years old and lives with her parents and two siblings near Kathmandu, Nepal. She has been working in a granite quarry since she was 3 years old. Every member of her family must work in order make ends meet. 

Jasmine is 4 years old and lives in a house in Kentucky, United States with her parents and three brothers. She has been entered in over 100 beauty pageants.

 

Roathy is 8 years old and lives on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. His home is located on top of a garbage dump. Every day he works in the dump collecting cans and bottles to sell to a recycling company. 

Justin is 8 years old and lives in New Jersey, United States. He plays football, basketball and baseball. 

Prena is 14 years old and lives in Nepal in the room shown in this picture. She has a job as a domestic worker in this home and her room is located in the attic and has bars on the door.

Kaya is 4 years old and lives in a small apartment in Tokyo, Japan with her parents.  

Interestingly, "Where Children Sleep" is a book intended for children. It has been written for kids between the ages of 9 and 13, with the intention of engaging children in the details, social issues and situations of other children around the world. Although the intended audience may be for children, it is an incredibly moving series of photographs that makes people of any age stop and think about the vast differences of wealth and culture in our world today.