Photo project

Toy Stories: Children in the Gabriele Galimberti Project

While traveling around the world, Gabriele Galimberti photographed children and their favorite toys

Gabriele Galimberti, 37 years old

Italian photographer, originally from Val Di Chiana (Tuscany). Has been doing large-scale documentary projects, author of books Toy Stories, In Her Kitchen and Couchsurfing. Partnered with publications Fortune, The Sunday Times, Stern, Geo, Le Monde, La Repubblica and Marie Claire. His photos have been exhibited in Vevey (Switzerland), Rome and NYC. Presently preparing an exhibition at V&A museum in London.


I started the project almost by chance. The first photo of the series was taken in Tuscany, – a friend’s daughter with the cows in the background. A female friend had asked me to photograph her child. So I went to their house and there she was, playing with the cows. I thought the setting was nice and decided to take her photo right there, among her toys and the cows. I loved the results and in a few months, when the opportunity to travel the world came my way, I decided to start taking similar photos in every country I’d gone to.

“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/toy-stories-cover-book.jpg”,
“alt”: “Toy Stories 2”

At the time I got a chance to travel the world for over two years, as I was working for a major Italian publication D La Repubblica doing a project on CouchSurfing for the magazine. So, I traveled through 58 countries, exclusively by couch-surfing. Every week, I published a page in the magazine that described my experiences. Basically, each was a portrait of a stranger who provided me food and shelter for the week, — I was telling stories of their lives.

Not sure if one can generalize about a certain country or society just by looking at my pictures. I wanted to show differences among people, while projecting the opinion that we are more alike than we think we are. Children from different corners of the world play different games, — yet they like to play all the same! Interestingly, kids of wealthy parents have more toys — which they are way more possessive of than those of their age from the third-world countries.

“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/05_alessia-toscana.jpg”,
“alt”: “Toy Stories 1”


Every child in my photos is in some way related to one of my couch-surfing hosts, – whether they are their daughters, nieces/nephews, sisters/brothers, or even neighbors. It was always quite easy to gain their confidence, — I just played with them. I tried to have my phone with me to show them photos of the children I photographed before. Most of the time that was enough to convince them to pose. Their parents had to help me at times, and they also shared the stories of the toys with me — the children don’t usually speak good English this early in life.

I had a few particularly interesting occurrences while I was shooting. Like the one at a small village in the north of Zambia, — a place with neither electricity nor running water, and, needless to say, no toy stores. Children there played with anything they could get their hands on. A girl called Maudy found a box full of sunglasses on the ground, along the main road, that had probably fallen off a truck. The very next day, all the children in the village were playing with those glasses!

“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/01_Maudy-Sibanda-Zambia.jpg”,
“alt”: “Toy Stories 3”

Another story that I remember well is one of Taha, a boy I photographed in Beirut, Lebanon.
He’s a Palestinian living with his family at a refugee camp. I remember going to his home to photograph him, and he didn’t feel like posing. He was crying a lot, especially when I was trying to touch this little car — his only toy. After fifteen minutes of unsuccessful attempts I was just about ready to give up. However, his mother pushed me to keep trying. She said: “You came here to take a picture of a Palestinian boy for you project, — so go ahead, take a picture of my son”. I spent almost two hours waiting for her to convince Taha to pose for me. Eventually, he stopped crying, for three minutes barely, and I managed to capture my perfect shot.

Other projects

My “Delicatessen with love”, project is somewhat connected to the Toy Stories, but originated in a completely different way. It’s dedicated to the hostesses from different countries and to their specialty dishes. While traveling the world I always thought of my grandmother who always worried that I wouldn’t eat well, especially at the places like China and Africa. She tried to discourage me from traveling and convince me to stay home. While finding it funny, I was truly touched by that, so I said to her: “You know what, Grandma, — there are many other grandmothers all over the world who’d be happy to cook something special for me to make sure I’m well fed.” Photographing grannies is almost the same as photographing kids.

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