Photos From Around the World of Families and Their Possessions

A family from Tokyo, settled on the sidewalk around their television, crowded by neatly organized electronic appliances, expelled closets, and prized heirloom pottery. Two wives, a husband, and their children in West Africa’s Mali, on the roof of their hut with the tools of their agricultural toils. A Baptist family, smiling and clutching an illustrated Bible on the suburban road loaded with furniture and appliances in Houston, Texas. Photographer Peter Menzel began his project Material World: A Global Family Portrait back in the ’90s, traveling to 30 countries around the world to capture families with most of their possessions. Using data from United Nations and the World Bank, he searched for “average” families — average in location, size, background, and occupation. Check out the resulting, slightly dated but utterly fascinating portraits in our gallery and see what sort of a material world we’re living in.

Tokyo from Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Manzell and Faith D’Aluisio