"Jayden, Monkeys and Blanket." Photo by Anna Ream
When my son Jack was born my mother gave him a plush baby blue blanket trimmed in a shiny blue satin border. That blanket and my now-7-year-old son have always been inseparable: First it was something I could swaddle him in, then it became a warm cover during nap time; through the toddler years, he looked like Linus from Peanuts, clenching at a corner of the blanket and dragging it around everywhere — even the playground, so when we got home, I’d pick wood chips off of it. Now it’s tattered and ripped, but it’s never crossed my mind to mend it.
These objects — toys, dolls, blankets, and other items that become incorporated into daily life — fascinate Anna Ream, 46, the photographer behind “Comfort Objects,” a continuous series that began in the fall of 2012, showcasing children with their most prized possessions.
A portfolio of 10 images from her project are currently on view at the Pacific Northwest Photography Viewing Drawers at the Blue Sky in Portland, Oregon through March. Umbrella Arts in New York is also showing one image from her collection through January. “There is something really cool and magical about an object that can physically comfort you,” she tells Yahoo Parenting.
"Bryn and Bunnie with Natale and Piggy." Photo by Anna Ream
Ream’s family lives in Issaquah, Wash., and her three children have comfort objects of their own, of course. “My 14-year-old daughter, Emma, still has Bear-Bear [a stuffed bear] but it stays on her bookshelf now,” she says. Her 8-year old daughter Eowyn adopted a stuffed dog from big sis Emma, and her 4-year-old Eli has a blanket named Fuzzy, with sewn looped tags all over it.
Ream began this photo project by asking friends or acquaintances if she could shoot their children with their comfort items. Three years later, she’s shot over 75 kiddos. “I always shot in their homes, and in the beginning I liked to shoot in the child’s space — their bedroom or playroom,” she says. Interestingly, she decided to also capture the kids in adult spaces, since “kids are navigating these rooms and figuring them out, too.” Unlike other photographers using props and whistles to draw a child’s attention, Ream chose to shoot the children in candid moments.
“I once shot a little girl with her beloved bunny toy that she named Green Bunny,” she says. “She plucked all of Green Bunny’s hair off his stuffed body.” Ream captured the child and her hairless animal-friend looking out a window, recalling, “The girl turned to me and said, ‘It’ so nice to be quiet.’” Ream never tells the kids to smile or say “cheese.”
"Kaidence and Zebra Blanky." Photo by Anna Ream
Objects ran the gamut, too. “I reached out to the YWCA and found out there was a program that helped reunite or transition incarcerated mothers back to their children,” she says. “There was one little girl, 4, whose prized comfort item was a blanket her mom gave her after being released from prison. It symbolized hope and a new beginning.”
Her most unusual situation, she says, was a boy whose mother’s hair was his comfort “object.” Ream says, “He didn’t really caress it. As he ran his fingers through it he would yank and twist — it was rather painful for her. She tried to transition him to something else, but it didn’t really work. The mom felt some things kids’ just need to grow out of.”
Ream tells Yahoo Parenting she’s not sure when this project will end. “I feel there are elements I still want to explore.”
"Chase and Mom’s Hair." Photo by Anna Ream