Many of us remember our school playgrounds as a much-welcomed reprieve from classroom doldrums, a place of sweaty-tendriled excitement, elaborate structures and the occasional scraped knee. But this vision is not universal.
School playgrounds can serve as a proxy indicator of a given place’s security, development and values, and thus may assume many physical forms depending on the area’s particular socioeconomic backdrop and cultural context. Birthplace is a matter of chance, and can often be the sole determinant of whether one grows up with opportunity and resources to seize it, or plays among garbage.
It is precisely these differences that photographer James Mollison sets out to document. In his book, Playground, Mollison captures everything from physical structures and facilities to student activities and even uniforms (or lack thereof) in each highly differing society. From Tel Aviv’s militaristic ensembles to the red, flowing robes that students sport in Bhutan, Mollison has collected an all-encompassing array of images that grant viewers access into playgrounds around the world.
Paso Payita school in Aramasi, Chuquisaca, Bolivia
He Huang Yu Xiang Middle School, Qingyuan, China
Valley View School, Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya
Hull Trinity House School, Hull, UK
Ecole primaire Kroo Bay, Freetown, Sierra Leone
Affiliated Primary School of South China Normal University, Guangzhou, China
Cadet School of the Heroes of Space, Moscow
Lycée Holtzl, Tel Aviv, Israel
Shohei Elementary School, Tokyo
Aida Boys School, Bethlehem, West Bank
Dechen Phodrang, Thimphu, Bhutan
Freretown Community Primary School, Mombasa, Kenya
Utheim Skole, Kårvåg, Averøy, Norway
Ecole primaire St. Mary of the Assumption, Brookline, Massachusetts
Maamounia Elementary Rhimal Area, Gaza City, Gaza
SDCCL Public School, Sikka, Gujarat, India
Al Khan Al Ahmar Primary School, Area C, Jericho, West Bank
Gomalandet Skole, Kristiansund, Norway
Wen Chong Primary School, Qingyuan, China
Adolfo López Mateos Primary School, Mexico City
Kaloleni School, Nairobi, Kenya
Open Day Primary School, Kathmandu, Nepal
Pei Qiao Central Middle School, Qingyuan, China
Rajkumar College, Rajkot, Gujarat, India
Sacred Heart Catholic Secondary School, London
Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, UK
Traveling to and documenting locations such as American, Argentina, Bhutan, Bolivia, India, Italy, Japan and Nepal (just to name a few), Mollison uses his camera not only to visually highlight the differences of each schoolyard, but also underscore what makes them the same: kids will always play.