This powerfully executed series of staged portraits was selected as a finalist in the Magnum Photography Awards 2016. Discover more inspiring work from all 44 of the winners, finalists, jurors’ picks and student spotlight award winners.


A feral child is one who has lived isolated from human contact, often from a very young age. As a result the child grows up with little or no experience of human care, behavior or language.

Some were cruelly confined or abandoned by their own parents, rejected perhaps because of their intellectual or physical impairment, or the parent’s belief that this was the case. In other instances, the loss of both parents was the cause. Others ran away after experiencing abuse. A small number of these children ended up in the wild and were “adopted” by animals as a result of a wide variety of circumstances.

Documented cases of feral children are geographically spread over four continents, and vary in age from babies taken by wild animals up to ten years old. Of course, these cases are only known of because the child survived. It is not difficult to think that there are probably untold cases where the outcome was less favorable.

It has also been documented that in cases where rescued children were very young before becoming feral, they have trouble developing the ability to speak or adjust to normal life. In some cases, they are not able to move like normal human beings, preferring to continue to walk on all fours, climb trees, eat raw flesh, etc.

There are only a few instances where truly feral children have gone on to adjust completely to “civilized” human life—speaking, reading, writing, and communicating without any problems. These are the cases in which the rescued child became the subject of intensive scientific research, in an attempt to determine the origin of our faculty for language.

—Julia Fullerton-Batten