‘Where Children Sleep’

IF someone asked you to describe the bedroom from your childhood, what would you say? Was it strewn with toys? Plastered with posters? Were you holed up in a box room? Or sharing with siblings? Perhaps you didn’t ever stay in one home long enough to truly put a mark on your own space?

Whatever you picture when you look back on your childhood, more often than not your bedroom (or lack of) will  be a beacon within the memories. And it was with this thought that photographer James Mollison started ‘Where Children Sleep’, a project trying to build awareness of children’s rights, which he was asked to undertake by Fabrica.

Instead of trying to tug on our heart-strings through the pleading eyes of a dishevelled looking child, Mollison sought to more actively engage children in the lives of their peers around the world.  He decided to do this on two levels. Firstly, through an identifiable representation of their material and cultural circumstances (the bedroom), and secondly, through portraits depicting each subject as an individual and an equal (the child against a neutral background).

The results of these juxtapositions are fascinating. Whilst the images of the bedrooms themselves oscillate between the mesmerising and the shocking, the ‘simple’ portraits that accompany them are no less intriguing.  The children’s often staid expressions prove unnerving to look at. This is not about cheesy grins for the camera. Defiance, detachment, or even what appears to be uncertainty, are the prevailing moods that the lens picks up on.

Mollison’s aim was for this book to captivate children’s interest in the details of the lives of others, as well as to provide a serious photographic essay for adults. With each diptych – accompanied by the story of its subject – being written and presented for an audience of 9 – 13 year olds I may not be the best judge as to whether it successfully engages the target reader.

However, there is no doubt that the images Mollison has created within this collection are powerful; and if they manage to open up a  child’s eyes to the variety of environments inhabited across the globe then that’s one step closer to preventing ignorance. And that is surely a good thing. 

One Response to “‘Where Children Sleep’”
  1. DanEastSide says:

    Amazing post, great idea. My favorite one is the last one. Kinda makes me think twice about my king size bed.

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