Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Where Children Sleep

If the Harry Potter's step family the Dursly's were ever to buy him a present then I think it would be the this book, because it would illustrate to him that living in a cupboard below the stairs is the lap of luxury in comparison to the place where many children around the world sleep at night.

James Mollinson's book is not meant to be a campaign to raise support for needy children, though it may well be seen that way. It is really just a series of environmental portraits of children for a variety of nations and a variety of backgrounds. These are environmental portraits with a twist, because he has shot the children separately from the backgrounds using a neutral backdrop and presented the child portraits alongside their environment.

The pictures alone speak volumes, but I think the project comes alive with the text that accompanies each photo, describing the life and ambitions of each child. From the very richest to the very poorest.

It's James's hope that children will read this book and think about inequality and perhaps figure out a way to respond in their own lives. Certainly my six year old daughter Christina enjoyed flicking through the book looking into the lives of other children. She was very much interested in the room of Kaya, a four year old from Japan, whose room was neatly stuffed to the rafters with dolls and soft toys. Christina told me, "I'd like to play with them"

My eldest daughter Caitlin read through the book and the story she found most shocking was of 4 year old pageant queen Jasmine Peters from the USA. Caitlin told me that she could understand how children could fall into poverty, but not one of constant rehearsal and preparation for beauty pageants.

As I wrote earlier the book is not a campaign but James was aided by Save the Children. Seeing as they get no money from the sale of the book I have decided to donate the difference between the retail price of the book and the discounted price on amazon to Save the Children. Furthermore, I will donate my amazon commission from any sales of the book made in November and December.

I have set up a just giving page where I will put my donations, I would hope that you could donate at least the amazon discount back to Save the Children if you buy the book.

If you are in the United States, the amazone links should automatically link to, but if they don't, you can get to the book from this link

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Half

It must have been two years since I went to see Simon Annand's exhibition at the National Theatre and I was struck by the beauty of the images, since then I have lusted after his book every time I've seen it in a book shop, but never enough to pay the full price. So I when I spotted it in the Book Warehouse on Camden High street for £7.99 I had to have it. There are still a couple of copies left so if you are in the area and want to get a slightly tired copy at a good price, get down there before they are all gone.

So what's it about? Simon Annand spent 25 years photographing actors in the half-hour before the performance, there are over 300 photos, many of which are outstanding, the cover being a great example of the best. Some are posed if not by Simon then by the actors themselves others appear to be taken at moments when the actors are deep in thought, seemingly unaware of the camera. Its these moments that really grab me.

There isn't much in the way of words other than a forward by Simon and an unpretentious introduction by Michael Kustow. Each photo is simply annotated with names, locations and dates. Its both a document of the actors, the space they inhabit in the dressing room and a keen observation of their behaviour in that private space and time. A great little collection of photos.

If you are unable to get a hardback copy for £7.99 Amazon sell a paperback copy at a reasonable £13.00, those of you in the good old US of A might find it a little less reasonable.