UBC Sociology student Pat Louie tweeted us a touching set of photographs by artist Gabriele Galimberti. Each image is a child with his or her favorite toys. They are in Malawi, Italy, Ukraine, Thailand, Zanzibar, Albania, Botswana, and elsewhere and the diversity is stunning.
The photographs reveal a universality — pride in favorite toys and the love of play — but, writes Ben Machell at Galimberti’s website, “how they play can reveal a lot.” The children’s life experiences influenced their imaginative play:
…the girl from an affluent Mumbai family loves Monopoly, because she likes the idea of building houses and hotels, while the boy from rural Mexico loves trucks, because he sees them rumbling through his village to the nearby sugar plantation every day.
Galimberti, interviewed by Machell, also observed class differences in entitlement to ownership:
The richest children were more possessive. At the beginning, they wouldn’t want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them. In poor countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care. In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside.
These photographs are reminiscent of another wonderful photography project featuring kids and their toys. JeonMee Yoon photographed boys with all their blue stuff and girls with all their pink stuff. The results are striking. Likewise, there’s a wonderful set of photographs by James Mollison, counterposing portraits with children’s sleeping arrangements across cultures. These are all wonderful projects that powerfully illustrate global and class difference and inequality.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.