Where Do You Sleep?

This blog post is inspired by the photo essay we began to discuss last week in class, “Where Children Sleep” by James Mollison. Here is the photo essay: http://jamesmollison.com/books/where-children-sleep/jaime-9-new-york-usa/


Different countries. Different aged children. Completely different living environments. I viewed this photo essay with a dropped jaw, shocked at the differences. That word kept repeating in my head over and over again as each photo went by. Why were these photos so shocking? Why did I feel close to tears as the photo essay continued? I racked my brain for the answers as an adorable, anonymous 4 year old boy from Rome flashed across the computer screen. Viewing this is challenging, and in this post I set out to provoke thought on exactly why it is challenging.

Where did we all grow up? Personally, I was fortunate enough to spend my childhood in a central Jersey suburban neighborhood, inside a cozy, two-floor house. Not everyone gets that opportunity, despite the area they live in. St. Louis or the Hamptons. Camden or SoHo. It’s not about location necessarily, but more about your overall environment. Family, income, education. All of these things factor into our growth as humans. Broken families or married parents? Low income or upper class? There are many questions that can go into this discussion. The anonymous boy from Rome is a prime example. Rome is absolutely stunning; we see photos of it in history books, in Facebook photos of people who have studied abroad there. We see the lovely architecture and the buildings that have been standing for hundreds of years. What we don’t take notice of is the lower side of it all; this little boy’s mattress is not amongst the upper tiers of the beautiful city. That’s why this is challenging to me. We don’t pay attention to what’s not directly in front of us.

There are children with fancy rooms, such as Tristan from New York, whose room is covered wall to wall in toys. Then directly after him, there’s Roathy, who’s photographed clinging on to what appears to be a bag of trash. How do things like this challenge your thinking? I’m sitting here toggling back and forth between these two photos, noticing the placement of them in the photo essay, and also trying to piece together what their background may be. I think that Mollison most likely took placement and order into huge consideration when ultimately putting this all together. To put such a large amount of juxtaposition between photos adds a certain shock value; it heightens the perspective and overall conveys the message quicker by showing that there is a huge difference.

One thing I noticed throughout this series is the fact that there is the option of choice. Some, not all, of these students have the choice on how to arrange, decorate, and enhance their room. There is a bedroom designed to replicate and reflect the child’s love for football, and the photo shown to the left of it is the child in his football uniform. Seeing that he’s passionate about the sport, it’s easy to conclude that he wanted his bedroom to reflect this, so this personal space of his is both enjoyable and personal. Then you can look at the photo directly following that one, and it’s a malnourished-looking child and where he sleeps; in a hut-like unlit room with nearly just a bed. I doubt that this child chose to live this way and wants to have this kind of living space. Kids are creative, they’re outgoing and fun-loving. They want to express themselves in any way that they possibly can in order to both have fun and put in their opinion on something. This is another reason why I find this photo essay challenging to view. Knowing that some of these children don’t have the choice. They don’t have any other option. Whatever they were born into, they didn’t choose it. I chose to have my room green. I picked to put my bed in a particular corner and I decided to hang up a special piece of Giants memorabilia on the opposite wall. But how come I ended up being fortunate enough to have these options and not some of these kids? How come some of them could decide and the others couldn’t? That is why this is challenging to get through.

So where did you sleep? Where do you sleep now? Do you have options, and can you make choices? I hope this provokes some thought, because I know it did for me.


8 thoughts on “Where Do You Sleep?

  1. This was an interesting piece to look back over for me. As I organized my thoughts about it I realized the pictures of the children actually had me generalizing their potential rooms. For each ethnicity I had an initial thought of what COULD be their room (i.e. the kid from UP, I thought it would probably be a room full of video games and manga) see?, they were all different distinct enough. More over then that, the kids overall don’t have too many distinctive factors to them. Meaning each kids look doesn’t dictate wealth level per say.


  2. After reading this post I really got an idea of what the photo essay is designed to do. It is supposed to point out something we never would have noticed before. As much as people say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” we do anyway. We assume that everyone has had similar experiences to us but that is not the case. Showing these images of different children and their living conditions shows how obvious some of us are to world since these photos were so shocking to some.


  3. This post is extremely insightful especially with our photo essay projects on the rise. The essay we looked at in class with the children’s rooms is something we generally wouldn’t think about “what does their room look like?” After seeing the photos, it opens our eyes to something bigger, something larger – the culture of the child, what their room says about them. This holds true for many photos we take on a regular bases. Most of the pictures we take are for a reason unless we are bored. If I were to post a picture of myself and a picture of my room, what would people think, would they judge, would they like me more? No one knows “everything about you” but pictures allow the viewer to gain a little more knowledge and lead them to be curious about you and your culture. The photo essay proposals are all so interesting to read because I think of the people that are working on them, and try and connect the two but it is easier said than done, I just want to see the finished products from everyone!


  4. I think this is a very good photo essay to analyze because it really does what it sets out to do. It does make you think and it brings up challenging ideas, problems, and questions we should all be thinking about. Not only does it show us the difference of bedrooms of children from different parts of the world but it shows us the difference right in the same state or country. How a child grows is very important in the ideas he/she forms about life. I like how you talked about the child who sleeps on a mattress in Rome. When someone thinks Rome, they think historically beautiful and romantic but there is this side no one sees that is full of poverty. I like how the photographer chose to capture this child because it let’s the viewer see that even in places like Rome poverty exists and should be recognized. I also think it is interesting that the children photographed in wealthier homes look like children they have careless smiles and bright eyes but the children photographed in poverty have eyes way beyond their years like they have seen things we would not even think of. It is just an eye opener. Even though we all know that different forms of poverty exist all over the world it is important to photograph it so people remember.


  5. When I first looked at “Where Children Sleep” by James Mollison I found myself picturing the child’s room before even seeing the photo of the child’s room. This is because naturally, people tend to judge a book by it’s cover. I am especially guilty of this act. In the photo essays we must try and present a similar concept to James Mollison. My photo essay is about the power of edits and how an edited photo can enhance a portrait tremendously. I feel that with my photo essay, people may see the first image, and be surprised by the following picture, just as they were after looking at some of the “where Children Sleep” images.


  6. In class we looked at the bedrooms in this photo essay before we knew where the child was living and this was interesting because it forced us to first look at the child and their living situation before we judged them or tried to associate them with a particular country. “Where Children Sleep” was a great example of a photo essay because it did not need any words and we did not need to know the photographer’s purpose. The photo’s spoke for themselves.


  7. After viewing “Where Children Sleep” by James Mollison, I felt deeply connected. It shows as privileged Americans, we take a lot for granted. The topic covered so many different things other than just where these children sleep. It evoked emotions, it dealt with social; class, culture, toys, and family. All of these are subtopics in these pictures. Facial expressions were the main point in this photo essay. For the stronger photos, in which they had props it really added to the photographs. After reefing this blog, it really did get me thinking of how privileged I have been. I always had a roof over my head. Currently, I reside in a 5-bedroom house in Central jersey as well, and it just my dad and I. We do not need these bedrooms! The last thing that this photo essay makes me think about was ho much a room really could describe a person, along with their personality.


  8. I loved that Bill Wolff shared “Where Children Sleep” by James Mollison. It was amazing to see how we would start making judgments on these children just by how they look and how their rooms were. It was crazy to see how the rooms either fit them or just a space that they had at the time to lay their heads at.


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