When I was seven or eight, she said, a couple of years before the accident, I discovered my dad’s Penthouse magazines. I was playing dress up in my parents’ closet and they were in a shoe box among other shoe boxes on the floor in the back. The magazines filled me with wonder, confusion, and disgust. Around the same time, in my third grade class—Mrs. Allan’s class—we made a series of handmade cards to give to the cigarette smokers in our lives, little notes that said: I love you and I want you to quit, smoking kills, something like that.

Each time I begin working with a new group of children, I encourage them to take their cameras outside and explore their surroundings and imaginations. The children create stories, play out scenes, and really explore their imaginations within the space of the frame. I see how photography opens up a world of spontaneity, fun, and magic. These photographs show the world of the children as they truly see it: punctuated by play and surprise.

The house is quiet. They have gone to bed, leaving me alone, and the electric timer has just switched off the living-room lights. It feels like the house has settled in and finally turned on its side to fall asleep. Years ago I would have gone through my mother's purse for one of her cigarettes and smoked in the dark. It was a magical time that the house was mine.

Tonight, however, I'm restless. I sit at the dining-room table; rummage through the refrigerator. What am I looking for?

An old, sprawling house, empty since Grandma died. During the Cultural Revolution the family had to scrape off all the decorations with a knife and cover the holes with cement. Each New Year they used to gather together to clean the house, it was a festive and happy tradition, with a sad sequel. The house was demolished by order of the government, the land confiscated to make way for a paper factory. The money was divided over the numerous family members, whose xue mai or ‘blood connection’ has been severed now that they have been violently driven apart. In the old days Jane and her family went swimming in the river behind the house, now the water is polluted.