Utne Blogs > Arts and Culture

Where Children Sleep

by Will Wlizlo

Tags: sleep, bedroom, photo essay, photography, portraiture, James Mollison, arts and culture, Will Wlizlo,

What shapes a child’s mind, personality, and future? Genetics? Environment? Education? A new clue may lie where the child lays their head to rest.

“When Fabrica [Benetton’s creative laboratory] asked me to come up with an idea for engaging with children’s rights, I found myself thinking about my bedroom,” writes photographer James Mollison, “how significant it was during my childhood, and how it reflected what I had and who I was.”

Mollison is a Kenyan-born English photographer whose portraiture often focuses on people from the global South. His latest project, a children’s book called Where Children Sleep (published by Chris Boot), takes portraits of youngsters from all over the world and from different walks of life and juxtaposes them with a picture of their bedroom—or, in some cases, what approximates as one.

When presented in combo, Mollison’s diptychs show more than a child’s health and sleeping arrangements. The juxtapositions expose systemic differences among cultures, economies, classes, and lifestyles. At the same time, the photographs remind us of the universality of humanity. Writes Mollison:


Kaya, 4, Tokyo, Japan 


 Joey, 11, Kentucky, USA 


Alex, 9, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 


 Jaime, 9, New York, USA 


 Lamine, 12, Bounkiling village, Senegal 


Images courtesy of James Mollison.