Where Children Sleep
What does our room say about us? It holds our exhaustless imagination and dreams- a place where we are free to rule our own kingdoms. When I was eight, my bedroom was filled with posters of the Spice Girls, stuffed animals won from the annual school carnival, and piles upon piles of books I could never stand to throw away. Not much has changed from then till now; the posters have collected a significant amount of dust, the stuffed animals now have white cotton peeking through the threadbare edges, and the books have managed to find an official home on an actual bookshelf. This is my room.
In James Mollison's book, Where Children Sleep, he takes pictures of children and their bedrooms from all over the world, from the top floor of an apartment building on Fifth Avenue to a favela in Rio de Janeiro. After being born in Kenya, growing up in England, and working in Italy, Mollison wanted to come up with a means of addressing children's rights to people of all backgrounds, regardless of location, age, or gender. Each of the photographs come with a small caption underneath, mentioning only the first name of the child and perhaps a few words about their hobbies or jobs.
Mollison wanted to make sure the shots of the children were taken in front of a neutral background, outside of their bedrooms. This technique separates the children from the wealth or poverty surrounding them, letting them each stand alone as individuals. What is striking about the stand-alone snapshots of the children are their eyes. Each set of eyes looks back at you with a certain emotion, and as you look at their bedrooms, that emotion multiplies tenfold, and for a moment, connects your existence to the existence of a little child in another corner of the world, someone you will probably never even meet.
Although a majority of the photos are of children living in third world countries, some are also from places where you would think poverty does not exist. Alyssa's tiny, scorched bedroom with the gaping roof is located in Appalachia, a couple hours drive from here. The Romanian boy who doesn't even have a roof and calls a small mattress on a patch of grass his room, lives in the outskirts of Rome. Sometimes it's easier to think of poverty as something distant that can only be found in developing countries. Seeing Indira's blanket and straw fortress with her hatchet in hand breaks our hearts, but we ask ourselves what we can possibly do for someone who lives all the way in Katmandu, Nepal. At times like this, we need to realize that poverty can be found everywhere, even in our own “first-world” neck of the woods.
I now see my Spice Girls posters on the walls of Thais' room, my stuffed animals on Kaya's floor, and my books on Lamine's wooden bookshelf. We all have a lot more in common with each other than we think; we just need to remember it and use it to implement the changes we want to see.
Indira, 7, lives with her parents, brother and sister near Kathmandu in Nepal.
Jaime, 9, lives in a top-floor apartment on Fifth Avenue. His parents also own luxury homes in Spain and in the Hamptons on Long Island.
4-year-old Romanian boy who shares a mattress with his family in the outskirts of Rome.
Thais, 11, lives with her parents and sister on the third floor of a block of flats in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She shares a bedroom with her sister.
Lamine, 12, lives in Senegal. He is a pupil at the village Koranic school, where no girls are allowed. He shares a room with several other boys.
Alyssa, 8, lives in a small, shabby house in Appalachia.
Joey, 11, lives in Kentucky, USA, with his parents and older sister. He regularly accompanies his father on hunts. He owns two shotguns and a crossbow and made his first kill – a deer – at the age of 7.
Kaya, 4, lives in Tokyo, Japan with her parents. Her mother makes all her dresses for her, usually 3 a month.