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James Mollison’s latest book and exhibition capture playgrounds from around the world.
Warren Lane Elementary
Inglewood, Los Angeles
In 2009, the photographer James Mollison was reflecting upon his Oxford school days when he realized that nearly everything he remembered happened on the playground—memories of games that were playful and fun, but also some that were violent. Inspired, Mollison embarked on a book project: photographing the playgrounds of both private and state schools in England. “Some of the private schools in England would have virtually no supervision for the children on the playground because they’d been taught from a young age how to play and interact,” he says. “Whereas I went to one inner-city state school in London and I was assigned a security guard for my protection.”
While on assignment, Mollison expanded the project to include schools in Kenya and eventually trekked around the world, photographing playgrounds in more than a dozen countries. He found an incredible diversity in the schools but, also, a universality in the children’s play—particularly with boys. “Maybe it’s just because I was thinking about my own time in the playground,” Mollison says. “It didn’t matter where I was, boys pretty much did the same thing.