Where Children Sleep is a photographic tour of kids’ dwellings from all around the world. The contrasts are stark. There are kids who live in huge bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, their toys carefully arranged, in mansions in New York, and homeless kids who sleep on discarded sofas in the slums of Rio de Janiero. Sixteen countries are featured in the book, including the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, Kenya, Senegal, Japan and China.
The book is organized by the children’s age (starting with the youngest), as opposed to location, so when you flip the page, the image is a complete surprise. Each photo is accompanied by a portrait of the child, as well as a short, but pretty insightful biography. The text is not restricted to describing the living conditions, it also covers the kids’ familial situation, where they work, go to school, or do for fun. In some cases, there is a more in-depth description of the local culture, and the political and social conditions of the country.
In the introduction, the author writes that, “There is nothing scientific about the selection of children featured: I traveled where I could, often alongside other projects, and many of the pictures result from chance encounters, following my photographer’s nose.” Because of this, the book often times feels like a collection of extremes — extreme poverty, like the Kenyan boy who sleeps outside in the dirt, or extreme culture, like the 4 year old girl, who’s entered in over one hundred beauty pageant competitions and has false nails and a fake tan. It’s difficult to understand whether these kids are representative of their culture, or if they are outliers. Nonetheless, I think it’s a really interesting look at how vastly different our worlds are from our contemporaries.
You can take a look at some more pages from the book in this New York Times article from a couple of years ago. And, if side-by-side cultural photographic comparisons interest you, check out Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, a project to document what families from around the world consume in one week.