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-combo-small 

Kaya, 4, Tokyo, Japan 

joey-combo-small 

 Joey, 11, Kentucky, USA 

 alex-combo-small 

Alex, 9, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 

jaime-combo-small 

 Jaime, 9, New York, USA 

 lamine-combo-small 

 Lamine, 12, Bounkiling village, Senegal 

 

Images courtesy of James Mollison.