“Where Children Sleep” is a series that captures the lives and situations of diverse children around the world—told through individual portraits and environmental pictures of their bedrooms.
The idea for the project arose when photographer James Mollison decided to engage with the subject of children’s rights. From the start, Mollison was determined to avoid the clichés of “needy children in the developing world.” Instead, he created something inclusive, showing children in all types of situations. His project tackles a difficult topic in an accessible way that is engaging for young and old alike.
To find the right approach, Mollison reflected back on his youth and searched for what had been significant to his own identity growing up. He quickly zeroed in on the centrality of the bedroom: a single, contained space, one that any person who grew up with a home could relate to. Once he settled on a concept, Mollison developed a consistent and visually engaging lens with which to “address some of the complex situations and social issues affecting children everywhere.”
The work, shot largely with a 4 x 5 camera, was intimate to produce. As Mollison told us, “I saw some very upsetting situations while doing this project. When in the process of making the images, I was able to concentrate on the technical decisions I needed to make in order to realize a successful picture…but the moments of sadness came while doing the interviews afterwards or in the evening, when I could reflect on what I’d seen.”
Still, the final results do not feel weighted down; rather, they look at our world’s widely divergent realities with the steady, uncomplicated gaze of youth. Mollison’s subjects, for one, have responded. Everywhere he goes, he makes sure to bring pictures to show potential portrait sitters. And what he finds is encouraging: “Wherever I am, I discover that children are often enthralled to see how other children live around the world.”
Editors’ note: “Where Children Sleep” was selected as a finalist for the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund grant. Also, the project was turned into a beautiful book:
Where Children Sleep
Publisher: Chris Boot
Hardcover: 120 pages
Dimensions: 8.9 x 10.9 x 0.7 inches