Photo: James Mollison
In typical charity photographs, there’s a small child flashing a toothy grin or a frown.”It’s kind of cold, and lifeless,” said photographer James Mollison. “But you’re expected to connect and donate.”
Those types of photos don’t give you a glimpse into the child’s life or true struggle, Mollison explained.
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When a children’s charity asked Mollison to do a photo essay on children, he started reflecting on his own childhood.
The best way to understand who he was as a child, he realised, was to flash back to his childhood bedroom and its decorations.
“The imagery of who a child is and what his or her situation is already exists in their bedroom or living space,” Mollison said.
Over the past three years, Mollison has traveled with Save the Children Italy, on freelance assignments and at his own will, taking portraits of children in South and North America, Europe and Africa. The subjects are photographed against clean, simple backgrounds, and then Mollison snaps photos of where they sleep to let their personalities shine through.
Mollison compiled his work and published “Where Children Sleep,” a commentary on how, despite the Declaration of Human Rights stating “We are all born equal,” no one truly is.
The project is not affiliated with a charity because when he decided to also photograph wealthy children, the charity dropped the project. More of the project can be viewed here.
In the project, Mollison was careful not to use the word “bedroom” as an all-encompassing term. Some of the children he photographed didn’t have bedrooms at all, sleeping in one-bedroom apartments, on the floor of a hut or even outdoors.
“I learned inequality will always exist,” Mollison said. “I hope other people learn about and get to see this window into how others are living and how drastic that disparity can be from their own situation.”
Kaya, 4, lives in an apartment with her parents in Tokyo, Japan. She wants to be a cartoonist when she grows up, drawing Japanese 'anime' cartoons.
Indira, 4, lives with her parents, brother and sister near Kathmandu in Nepal. At bedtime, the children share the mattress on the floor. She has worked in the local granite quarry since she was 3. The whole family has to work because they are so poor.
Alyssa lives in Kentucky with her parents. The ceiling of her bedroom is starting to cave in. Drug misuse is an issue in the area, and two of Alyssa's relatives have died from drug-related problems.
Ahkôhxet, 8, is a member of the Kraho tribe, who live in the basin of the Amazon River in Brazil. The tribe grows and hunts for all its food.
Alex, 9, lives in Rio de Janeiro where he begs and steals to survive. He doesn't go to school and sometimes is in touch with his family and they get together to share a meal.
Tzvika, 9, lives in Beitar Illit, an Israeli settlement housing 36,000 Haredi (Orthodox) Jews. In the gated community,, televisions and newspapers are banned. He shares his bedroom with his sister and brother.
Joey, 11, lives in Kentucky with his family. He owns two shotguns and a cross- bow of his own. He killed his first deer at age 7.
Nantio, 15, is a member of the Rendile Tribe in Kenya. She lives and sleeps in a tent-like dome made from cattle hide and plastic. She can barely stand in the tent. There is a fire in the middle, around which she and her two brothers and two sisters sleep.
Lehlohonolo, 6, lives with his three brothers in Lesotho, in southern Africa. Their parents died from HIV related diseases. They live in a mud hut where they sleep together on the floor, cuddling for warmth.
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