5 continents
4 corners of the compass
1 world



“5 + 4 = 1” is a project about children: children from all corners of the planet. “5 + 4 = 1” is a quest by means of photographs for the environment of children in the 5 continents and from the 4 corners of the compass. But most of all, “5 + 4 = 1” is a quest for resemblances and similarities between children, and thus people. Since 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, the Danish cartoons the differences and contrasts between countries, cultures and religions are highlighted, underlined and emphasized. “5 + 4 = 1” wants to expose not only the differences or contrasts between people and cultures, but also and especially the similarities, without being blind for problems. Children are the living proof that people anywhere have more in common than we might think at first glimpse. At least, before religion, nationalism or culture leave their mark on children and their way of thinking and living.



By means of photographs of thousands of children during their daily activities and themes like education, safe water, child labour, etc. I want to portrait “the child”. Not to make a complete black book or inventory of all things going wrong concerning children. Most of all I want to give the close observer the opportunity to judge for himself if children all over the world (and thus we all) have more in common than just there age. For a girl in a working-class area in Dakar, Senegal a doll missing arms and legs and found in a garbage can means as much, maybe even more since it might be her only doll, as the brand new Barbie doll for a European girl. A Mosquito girl in Honduras plays in the same delicate manner with her doll as a Vietnamese girl in Hanoi. Boys like to act the tough guy and play with toy guns. But has this play the same meaning for boys in Bosnia or Belfast as for boys in Hong Kong or Burkina Faso? Although all the negative publicity for smoking, boys and girls all around the planet pose proudly for my camera with a cigarette.


I photographed children working in brickyards in Rwanda, India, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Uganda and Cambodia. For most of us, situations like these belong to an industrial past. For many children this is still daily reality. Children are entitled to education but unfortunately many are obliged to work in order to increase the income of their families. Instead of learning to read and write, they watch the whole day cows, sheep or goats grazing. On shipyards in Dhaka, Bangladesh they knock the whole day with a hammer on ships that need to be painted. These children consider their situation for granted: walking miles and miles for water, herding goats or sheep, sorting out garbage at the rubbish dump.


Despite all this, these children look fearless and uninhibited in the camera. What you get to see is poverty, sorrow and misery but most of all spontaneity, sincerity and determination. Thousands of children gave me the opportunity to catch a glimpse of their world and allowed me to get their delight, play and joy of living on film. Since 1996 when I first started this project, I also learned the true meaning of hospitality. After 9/11, the invasion of Iraq more and more people seem to divide the world in friends and enemies, believers and disbelievers. Religion, nationalism and the laws of the economy drive a wedge between people and are used to sow the seeds of hatred, conflict and terror. The children I photograph provide evidence to the contrary. They are the living proof of what most people know in their heart, but what is too easily forgotten. These children show unity, resemblance and the richness of diversity. Indeed, “5 + 4 = 1”.

You don't have to believe me. You can judge for yourself simply by watching the slideshows. Enjoy and don't forget to click the "Wanted" button..


Karl Deckers







Karl Deckers | Maak je eigen badge