“It’s a small world,” a comedian said, “but I wouldn’t want to paint it.” Fortunately for the rest of us, there are world-painting projects like this one from Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti, which reduce the big world picture into human-sized details.
Toy Stories: Photos of Children from Around the World and Their Favorite Things is self-explanatory, and started simply: friends asked the photographer to make a portrait of their daughter. That portrait – child + cows + toys organized neatly before her — convinced Galimberti he had a concept with legs. So when he left Italy for a round-the-world trip on another assignment, he brought it along with him, telling subjects about the side project, and asking them to recommend children that could represent their country.
Galimberti ultimately photographed children in 58 countries over a three-year span. Some themes did emerge, like how all children just want to play, no matter what they have at hand, and how a child’s toys reflect the world they know, their social-economic status, and their parents’ influence:
“Hopes and ambitions are passed down through the toys parents choose for their children. Children from families boasting musicians invariably receive musical toys. A cab driver’s son had a fleet of toy cars.”
–Ben Machell, from the introduction to the Toy Stories book
As for what was different, Galimberti noticed that the more toys a child had, the more guarded they were with them. To establish a rapport before picking up the camera, he’d ask to play with the toys alongside the child; wealthier kids were more reluctant to share, and took time to get acclimated to the idea. Significant? Galimberti opted not to explore this finding, preferring instead to focus on the shared humanity of all his subjects.
Images via Feature Shoot.