Think back to when you were a kid —remember your bedroom and all the things you had in it — colourful walls, toys strewn across the floor, sketchbooks littered with a rainbow of crayons. With that image in your mind peruse the selection of photographs below.
This photograph is of 6-year-old Bilal, and on the right side is, by no exaggeration, a photograph of his ‘bedroom’ where he sleeps with his father’s herd of goats. Bilal is part of photographer James Mollison’s photographic essay titled ‘Where Children Sleep.’ Mollison travelled the world photographing a diverse group of children and the spaces that they call their bedrooms, and his stories are told in a manner that is as poignant as it is minimalist.
“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,” he writes on his website. He photographed over 200 children in front of a neutral background and then captured their ‘slumber-spaces.’ From apartments in New York to stone quarries in Nepal, Mollison’s series showcases the striking disparity in living conditions. The project has since been converted into a book with a glow-in-the-dark cover – do glow-in-the-dark stars ring any bells?
“Jyoti, aged 14, Makwanpur, Nepal: Jyoti left school at a young age in order to become a domestic worker, but was treated so badly she ran away and now lives with one of her sisters in the Nepalese countryside where she works in the fields. The family sleep on mats on the mud floor with an open fire for cooking and warmth.”
“Jaime, aged nine, New York, U.S.: Jaime lives in a top-floor apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan but his parents also own luxury homes in Spain and in the Hamptons on Long Island. He attends an exclusive and very expensive private school and particularly enjoys computer class, spelling and woodwork, but not geometry. In his spare time, apart from judo classes, swimming lessons, playing the cello and kickball, Jaime likes to study his finances on the Citibank website. When he grows up, he would like to be a lawyer like his father.”
“Alex, aged nine, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Alex does not go to school and instead spends his time begging on the city streets and stealing. Although he is in contact with his family, he is addicted to sniffing glue and sleeps on the streets. He sleeps on empty benches or a discarded sofa if he can find one – otherwise on the pavement.”
“Jasmine, aged four, Kentucky, U.S. ‘Jazzy’ lives in a big house in with her parents and three brothers in the Kentucky countryside. Her bedroom is full of crowns and sashes which she has won in some of the hundreds of pageants she has entered. She enters one every weekend, costing her parents thousands of dollars. Her spare time is completely taken up with preparation and rehearsal. She practises her stage routines every day with a trainer who teaches her new steps. Jazzy enjoys being treated like a princess, having her hair done and wearing pretty clothes and make-up and would like to be a rock star when she grows up.”
“Ahkôhxet, aged eight, river Amazon, Brazil: Ahkôhxet is a member of the Kraho tribe, who live in the basin of the river Amazon. There are only 1,900 members of the tribe. The Kraho people believe that the sun and moon were creators of the universe, and the red paint on Ahkôhxet’s chest is from one of his tribe’s rituals. The tribe grow and hunt their own foods, and any other material they need is bought using money earned from film crews and photographers who visit their camp.”
“Prena, aged 14, Kathmandu, Nepal: Prena is a domestic worker and lived in a small cell-like space at the top of the house of the family she works for. Prena carries out household chores such as sweeping, cleaning, cooking and washing. She starts work at five in the morning and finishes at six in the evening. For this, she earns five hundred Nepali rupees per month (about £3.13). She sends the money back to her parents, who have eight other children, and visits her family twice a year. The light in her life is school, which she attends three times a week - and she hopes to be a doctor when she grows up.”
“Tzvika, aged nine years old, Beitar Illit, West Bank: Tzvika lives in a gated community of 36,000 Orthodox Jews in an Israeli settlement on the West Bank. Televisions and newspapers are banned from the settlement. The average family has nine children, but Tzvika has just one sister and two brothers, with whom he shares his room. even though his school is just a two-minute walk away, he is taken by car every day. Religion is the most important subject, followed by Hebrew and maths. Sport is banned from the curriculum. Tzvika also likes to play religious games on his computer and wants to be a rabbi when he grows up. His favourite food is schnitzel and chips.”