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As a pediatrician, Calvin Chen sees children at their best and their worst. He says his job is about how to “keep kids safe and healthy,” but during his travels to developing countries, he began to realize that “these two adjectives may not always coincide.”

Perhaps due to his natural ease around children, Chen’s photographs are candid, playful, and provide an intimate look into their lives. Not afraid to enter the fray, his close proximity to his subjects place the viewer into each activity, whether it’s a stickball game in the street, or a swim in the river.

In less-than-idyllic conditions, these precarious balancing acts and unstructured types of play appear more dangerous than if they occurred on suburban playgrounds. The tension between innocent child’s play and bleak surroundings is indicative of how fleeting this carefree and fearless time is in their lives.

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All images © Calvin Chen

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