In 1995 DK published the bestseller, Children Just Like Me, a highly photographic, visual guide that took young readers on an exciting journey around the world to explore everyday life through the eyes and words of children just like themselves. In a pre-Internet world, the photography for the original edition took nearly two years to complete and resulted in a world tour for the photographer and author who met with children after making contact with their families by letter and by fax.
2016 marked the 20th anniversary of this classic book, which DK celebrated with an updated edition filled with a brand-new class of 21st-century children. While email and social media greatly aided the writers and photographers in tracking down the children of families willing to participate in the project, the new edition still required a massive global undertaking to uncover a remarkably comprehensive snapshot of each of their daily lives, their families and pets, their schools and hobbies, as well as their aspirations for the future. In the end, over 10,000 digital photographs were captured for the new edition.
We asked James Tye, one of the photographers on the 20th anniversary edition, to share some of the memorable destinations he traveled to for the project and favorite shots he captured of children from around the world.
“Bolat’s family treated me to a traditional Kazakh meal to welcome me to their home in the capital, Astana. It took all morning to prepare and was made from horse meat. They explained how every part of the animal was used and demonstrated which part they were talking about by signing and using their bodies, which the interpreter then explained in English. It was delicious and took several hours to eat as each person on the table had to give a speech. At the end of each speech we were expected to drink kumis, which is a fermented horse milk drink. It tasted a little like blue cheese and is certainly an acquired taste!”
“Going to visit Murk in Pakistan was one of my favorite shoots of the whole project. We were obviously not from the area and it was impossible to be discreet. As we walked into Murk’s village and towards her house we were surrounded by all the kids from the village, as well as quite a few of the adults. They were all very happy to have us there and made us feel like royalty. I’d brought a white backcloth with me to all the shoots to photograph people against and, until Pakistan, had managed to keep it reasonably white. However, in order to keep Murk’s goat happy I had to spread goat feed all over it, and by the end of the day the sheet had become a lovely mottled brown!”
“Lily from Ohio was a great subject to photograph. She may look a bit shy in the photos but she’s a tough farm girl underneath. When I asked her if she was ready to start she slapped her hands together and said, ‘Mister, I was born ready!’ Lily’s mum had asked if I’d give a class at the local school where she teaches, so of course I agreed. Nervous, I turned up to find the room full to bursting, as the whole school had turned out! I’d never taught before and wondered if I’d be much use. We discussed various project ideas and someone casually mentioned that during the following week was ‘Bring your tractor to school day’. I suggested this would be excellent material for a photo project and very interesting to anyone not from a farming community. I hope they took my advice!”
“The Journey to meet Miguel in Montería, Colombia, was eventful. On the way there from the Cartagena airport my tiny car had two flat tires and a dead battery. Some local farmers helped me back on the road and I finally got to Montería at 5:00 AM, 13 hours after I’d set off, and 9 hours behind schedule. Then on the way back there was a freak storm. It lasted no longer than five minutes, but managed to bring down a huge tree across the road in front of me. I had to wait most of the day before a digger and men with chainsaws arrived to cut it up and I could be on my way. Luckily the photos of Miguel and his family made up for the journey!”
More About Photographer James Tye: James’s work has been featured in magazines such as Condé Nast Traveller and Sunday Times Travel Magazine, as well as guidebooks for Dorling Kindersley and Berlitz. You can find out more at www.jamestye.com.