The Huffington Post has a fantastic online series of photography projects with a cultural bend. This week they’re introducing James Mollison’s book, Where Children Sleep, which was published a while back (as PITNBrs Becca and Missy pointed out). Mollison has taken amazing, powerful photos of children and their rooms from around the world. I enjoyed the pictures immensely, but a lot of readers are accusing Mollison of bias and really, lack of creativity. The difference between the rooms of the kids in America and the kids in say, Palestine is vast (for obvious reasons). But did the artists portray American kids as the spoiled, rich brats that many of them aren’t? Checkie out inside.
The HuffPost also interviewed the artist about his work:
Childhood bedrooms are among the first places we call our own. Shared with others or not, these are spaces of our play, of our dreams, and of our stuff. Teddy bears, action figures, blankets, pillows, marks on the ceiling—each child’s bedroom forms its own unique world. Venice based photographer James Mollison’s book, “Where Children Sleep” explores this originary landscape, taking us inside children’s bedrooms across the globe.
Can you tell us a particularly striking child’s story you encountered on your journey?
In terms of extremes between two children, it would be between Jaime, who I photographed in his top-floor apartment on Fifth Avenue in New York, and Lehlohonolo who lived in Lesotho, in southern Africa. Jamie went to a highly sought after school and had a hectic schedule of after-school activities like judo, swimming lessons, cello and kickball; he also liked to study his finances on the Citibank website.
Lehlohonolo lived with his three brothers, who were AIDS orphans. The boys lived in a mud hut where they slept together on the floor, cuddling up to each other for warmth during the freezing cold nights. Two of Lehlohonolo’s brothers walked to a school eight kilometers away where they are also given monthly rations of food -– cereal, pulses and oil. They couldn’t remember the last time they ate meat. Sadly, they will probably live in poverty for the rest of their lives because crops are difficult to grow on the infertile land and there are no prospects of employment. The vulnerability of the these kids was very upsetting.
What do you hope people will take away from this series?
We tend to inhabit a small world of friends, family, work, school etc. I hope the book gives a a glimpse into the lives some children are living in very diverse situations around the world; a chance to reflect on the inequality that exists, and realise just how lucky most of us in the developed world are.
Read the full interview here.
Here are the photographs. You could argue that he’s contrasting American life with the life of the ‘Other,’ which can be problematic. But I’m not sure that he’s entirely wrong:
Jivan, New York (Brookyn)
The argument a lot of people made was typical: Hey! I’m American and my kids don’t live like that! Readers seemed offended by the photographer’s perpetuation of the idea that alll Americans are wealthy, while those in other countries are allll poor. And little girls in Tokyo have an ish-load of toys. I agree, there are plenty of stereotypes at work here. But I’ve always thought that stereotypes exist for a reason– sometimes small, ridiculous reasons– but I would make the same argument here. Of course there’s poverty in America. Of course. Yet and still, American poverty is “different” from East African poverty, which is different from French poverty. Not to open up this discussion but, there’s a reason people would rather be poor in America. It’s because the poverty where they live is of a different, far more horrific sort. So I’m not going to complain that he didn’t show the bedrooms of American kids who live in the projects or children who live in a one-bedroom apartment with their entire family. Another photographer will do that, and others surely have.
And here’s an important note. The HuffPost did not include all of Mollison’s works from his book. He had more balance than we might have initially given him credit for. And his work is, to me, still stunning:
Delanie, New Jersey
See more photos here.
What do you guys make of Mollison’s work? Brilliant, biased or both?