Manuel Alvarez Diestro's stark, simple photographs take us to empty playgrounds around the world, from Iceland to Lebanon to Tokyo. At times bleak and severe, other times enticing, the images give us a glimpse into how a universal childhood activity -- play -- happens in places both exotic and familiar.
The project began, he says, with a few images from playgrounds near the river Thames, not far from his home in London. But it expanded into a two-year effort that took him through Europe, East Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas in a quest to explore cities through the domains of their youngest residents.
"I wanted to create a more human perspective ... by juxtaposing these structures which we all played on in our youth and the cities they are in," he told Foreign Policy.
The playgrounds at times can seem to repeat themselves: a few core components -- slides, ladders, and swings -- appearing over and over on a varying backdrop. But Diestro says he was struck by the different feel of the playgrounds he encountered on his odyssey.
"Every country had its own type of playgrounds," he wrote. "In Spain, for instance, you can find them on a small scale is almost every residential area.... In New York, they're on a greater scale, and are more theme-driven. In countries such as Oman there were not as many, and one has to drive for hours ... in order to find them. In Tiwi, Oman, in a very small village on the coast, not far from Sur, I found a blue slide under a greeway bridge next to a cliff. The isolation was complete."
Above: Hong Kong, China.
Manuel Alvarez Diestro