Where Children Sleep: Photographs by James Mollison is an introspective look at the lives of children, in varying economic and social situations, from around the world. Each child’s portrait is displayed in conjunction with an image of their bedroom, or where they sleep. The juxtaposition of the each child’s image and story creates a startling and eye-opening effect and the viewer is invited into a world that would have otherwise been unknown. The exhibit is both thought-provoking and reflective, and I began to compare my childhood experience to the children’s stories. It is so easy to take things like a bed and food, for granted, until you see the reality in which so many others live. I became much more grateful for the comfortable and nurturing environment in which I grew up. If you have seen the exhibition already, what did you think?
Of the 26 works, one of the most eye opening images for me was that of a four year boy, originally from Romania. His family fled to Rome, after begging for money in order to purchase bus tickets. Initially, they lived in a tent, but were spotted by the police and forced to leave due to trespassing on private property. Now, the boy and his parents share a mattress, as both a bed and a home, in the outskirts of Rome. Because the child and his family do not have legal work papers or documentation, they will never be able to get a job. Instead, they are forced to work on the street, cleaning car windshields and traffic lights for a living. The boy’s family has never been to school, and neither of his parents can read or write.
After learning about the boy’s childhood and family history, as well as viewing his portrait and bed on display, many thoughts come to my mind. I wonder how the family imagined life would be in Rome as compared to Romania, and if their situation is better in the new city. Additionally, will the child be given more opportunities in Rome, and eventually live life off of the streets? So many obstacles stand in his way- no work papers, citizenship, education, or ability to read and write. His eyes, at only four years old, show exhaustion and surrender to his life and circumstances. My heart goes out to him and I hope that he is given the opportunity to live a better life, and that he is the situation to accept it.
Where Children Sleep: Photographs by James Mollison is on display through June 29th. With stories varying from Japan, to the West Bank, Africa, and the United States, it is definitely an exhibit not to miss! If you have visited the exhibition already, please share with us some of your thoughts and responses to the images that resonated with you!
-Caitlin McGrother, Michener Art Museum Intern