Two Stirring Photo Projects Inspired by Childhood

“Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” – Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose

Most people remember the places and objects of their childhood fairly vividly. But these images usually stay within the nostalgia zone of their memories. Through a project titled “Experiential Spaces”, photographer Thomas Friedrich Schaefer decided to take some of this visual information and incorporate it in beautifully detailed sets that he builds and photographs in his Berlin studio.

The resulting images are loaded with unfolding stories. In one shot, a boy tackles his homework in his room while his father watches TV in an adjoining room. In another one, a girl walks slowly across an upstairs hallway towards a closed bedroom, passing another one with the door slightly ajar. The mix of lighting, color and spatial arrangement impart depth to each scene.

A post published in the British Journal of Photography describes the project’s goal and Schaefer’s approach:

What Schaefer is trying to show is that all our memories, no matter how vivid, are constructions – and these constructions change as we, ourselves, change. He [says]: “The child’s room isn’t my room – I never had a car bed, for example, but I like building up a character. The kid in the room is into cars and his dad is maybe a footballer, that’s why he has trophies. I mix my memories with social memories that will trigger more feelings in the viewer.”

Experiential Spaces #1, 2015 © Thomas Friedrich Schaefer (Via: British Journal of Photography)
Experiential Spaces #1, 2015 © Thomas Friedrich Schaefer (Via: British Journal of Photography)

Another childhood-centric project but this one revolving around real children and everyday play is ‘Toy Stories”, the brainchild of photojournalist Gabriele Galimberti.

Galimberti describes this particular mission on his website:

For over two years, I visited more than 50 countries and created colorful images of boys and girls in their homes and neighborhoods with their most prized possessions: their toys. From Texas to India, Malawi to China, Iceland, Morocco and Fiji, I recorded the spontaneous and natural joy that unites kids despite their diverse backgrounds. Whether the child owns a veritable fleet of miniature cars or a single stuffed monkey, the pride that they have is moving, funny and thought provoking.

As described in this article, for each photograph he took, Galimberti spent the entire day with the family in order to try and understand how various social and cultural factors impacted their choice of toys. The insights he uncovered provide a window into childhood and imaginative play. Despite all the differences stemming from conditioning, Galimberti found that there were also many similarities in the way children viewed and engaged with their toys. For example, he met a boy in Texas and a girl in Malawi who both depended on their plastic dinosaurs to keep them safe at night.

Playtime in Costa Rica -- Photo: Gabriele Galimberti (Via:
Playtime in Costa Rica — Photo: Gabriele Galimberti (Via:

This post is part of an attempt to highlight unusual photography, photo digitization & memory preservation projects around the globe.