Children and their bedrooms are shown in the photo series "Where Children Sleep"
The 56 diverse photos portray a world of poverty and privilege
A child’s bedroom often expresses their identity. From brightly colored walls filled with posters to toys and books scattered around, it is truly their place of comfort. But for some children around the world, their bedroom is no more than a mat outside or a collection of old sheets, tires and trash on a dirt floor.
The inequalities children face are depicted in James Mollison’s photo series “Where Children Sleep,” which is currently on display at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum in Atlanta.
Although it has been nearly six years since Mollison’s collection was first published, it still sparks conversation among people of all ages.
“I did not anticipate that ‘Where Children Sleep’ would be so successful,” said Mollison, who is based in Venice, Italy. “I am particularly pleased that it has engaged people in imagining the lives of others in very different circumstances.”
“Where Children Sleep” illustrates children’s bedrooms alongside a portrait of them against a white background. Mollison chose a neutral background because he wanted to provide a sense of equality for all the kids.
The 56 diverse photos depict a world of poverty and privilege.
“From the start, I didn’t want it just to be about ‘needy children’ in the developing world, but rather something more inclusive, about children from all types of situations,” Mollison wrote on his website.
Nine-year-old Jamie lives in a top-floor apartment on Fifth Avenue in New York. Prena, a 14-year-old domestic worker, lives in a cell-like room atop the building where she works in Nepal. Lehlohonolo is a 6-year-old boy who sleeps with his three brothers on the floor of a mud hut in Lesotho.
Mollison was introduced to his subjects through friends of friends and organizations like Save the Children. The response from families and children when Mollison entered their homes was varied, and access was sometimes difficult.
“One issue I had with situations where we had set things up beforehand was, the rooms would often be immaculately tidy, certainly not how I kept mine,” Mollison said. “Getting parents to keep them as they are was often impossible.”
His photographs were shot in the United States, Japan, the West Bank, Colombia, Cambodia and many other locations.
He intended to produce his book for adults, but as his work came together, Mollison thought it was a good idea to write with children in mind. He says he “didn’t sanitize the stories, but they were edited by a schoolteacher for appropriate language.”
Mollison has continued to work on a variety of projects but simultaneously has photographed children and their bedrooms when he comes across them.
“Where Children Sleep” has been so well-received that Mollison is aiming to publish another take on the theme. His new book will focus on one of the most important issues of our time, one that is particularly relevant to children: the refugee crisis.
There are nearly 21.3 million refugees around the world, more than half of whom are under the age of 18, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
He plans to call this project “Where Refugee Children Sleep.”
James Mollison is a photographer based in Venice, Italy. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter.