Lamine’s Library

The photo I chose to analyze, and which really captivated me, was from Where Children Sleep. It was the photo of twelve year old Lamine and his Senegal bedroom. What was so compelling about this photo essay was the range of bedrooms—ranging from rooms nicer than any I have ever seen to in fact not rooms at all but sequestered corners on the street. The rhetoric of the essay, as I interpreted it was to show Western audiences that the social breakdown of our globe is not a dichotomy of rich and poor. People come from varying and distinct backgrounds, and this essay asks us to consider the implication that our childhood backgrounds have on who we become as adults and what we can achieve.

Lamine’s bedroom is actually amongst the nicer half of the rooms. While it may appear at first sight as nothing more than a typical room belonging to an impoverished boy, to a middle-class American audience, this photo enables and asks us as viewers to see it as so much more than that. The attractive lighting in the neat room invites us to wonder, who is Lamine?

The photo employs many photographic techniques to direct our attention and influence how we perceive the scene captured in the photograph. First, through light that creates dimensional shadows on the walls as well as placing a corner of the room near a line-of-thirds axis we get a feel for the size of this room. The room is a generous size. The furniture is very minimalist, implying that Lamine does not have a lot of clothing or excess material objects. His room is nicely cropped and framed, so that we can see most of his belongings without having excessive dead space on the sides of the photograph. The room is brightly lit with what appears to be natural sunlight—we can infer that there is a window in the room. This is one way in which the photographer is able to communicate information about the scene which is not actually in the photograph. The lighting also has the effect of creating a cheerful, warm mood. The two objects most brightly illuminated by the lighting are a stack of neatly piled books and what appears to be Lamine’s book bag at the end of his bed. To further draw attention to them, they are placed at two intersections of the line-of-thirds. This creates a rhetoric on the focus on education present in Lamine’s life. This idea was both powerful and strongly conveyed. Clearly, reading and scholarship are important to this tidy boy who neatly stacks his books—we can sense they are precious items to him. The stack of books and the bed also serve as the two balancing elements of the bottom composition of the photo. However, the top is mainly empty plain walls adorned with a single framed picture. By keeping the overall composition of the photo unbalanced the photographer communicates that while Lamine has some, he is still living a simple and impoverished life by Western standards.

The textures of this picture are one of the most intriguing elements about it. I noticed a correlation between the colors and textures of the walls, ceilings, and floors of the room and the outfit, axe, and deep skin of Lamine. Both have shine, and grainy grit, leaving no question that this is his room, that he has decorated and organized to match his own personality. I found it interesting that even though there is mud on the floor and the ceilings are a patchy color, they convey an orderly calmness. To me, I looked at these walls and ceilings and contemplated the fact that while they are not up to the American standards for a bedroom, they are not gross, they are not defunct. They are enough, and for Lamine, they comprise his escape.


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