julia fullerton-batten’s ‘feral children’ photo series plays out over four of the world’s continents. it takes place in wooded forests and lush jungles, from a swamp in france to a chicken coop in fiji. the equal parts distrrssing and dreamlike collection is driven by the stories of children across the world who have at some point in their lives been abandoned by adults to fare for themselves, often turning to the care of animals. it’s an idea that has captured the popular imagination for years: just look at the success of rudyard kipling’s ‘the jungle book’, or edgard rice burroughs’ ‘tarzan’, even the lost boys of ‘peter pan’. 

lobo wolf girl, mexico, 1845/1852
seen in mexico running on all fours with a pack of wolves, attacking a herd of goats
all images courtesy of julia fullerton-batten



‘as a mother of two young boys I was appalled and intrigued in turn when I first learned about feral children,’ explains fullerton-batten. ‘my maternal instinct goes into overdrive when I consider these young people experiencing their lives alone or in the company of wild animals. then I consider and admire the fortitude they must have shown to survive such isolation and extreme circumstances. in any of the circumstances that I have read about, it completely overwhelms the boundaries of my comprehension.’

prava (the bird boy), russia, 2008
confined to a room containing dozens of his mother’s pet birds, prava could not speak when found, only chirp



the photographer chose 15 cases to represent in the series, ranging from children found living with wolves, to a boy whose only company was the pet birds of his mother. rather than trying simply to represent the experiences of the children in each case fullerton-batten attempts to symbolize the emotional state of those pictured, to interpret and duplicate the feelings and actions of each feral child living their experience. the series questions our perceptions of what a ‘normal’ life constitutes, and suggests a more flexible definition of which we call humanity.

sujit kumar (the chicken boy), fiji, 1978
kept in a chicken coop by his family until the age of 8, sujit kumar clucked, pecked at food, and roosted like a bird



‘life is complex, for some more than others, even when we are considering a normal human life’, continues the artist. ‘its complexity varies from one part of the globe to the other. in considering feral children, who are fully human, at least at the start of their lives, how can we not look at my images and question and wonder about the tenacious survival instincts of these 15 human beings.’


‘feral children’ is currently on show at deda, derby, as part of FORMAT festival until the 23rd April 2017.

ivan mishukov, russia, 1998
after running away at the age of four, ivan lived for two years with a pack of dogs. he now leads a normal life

madina, russia, 2013
lived with dogs until the age of three; when found she walked on all fours and growled

oxana malaya, ukraine, 1991
lived with dogs in a kennel for 6 years, when found she panted, bared her teeth, ran on all fours and barked

john ssebunya (the monkey boy), 1991
living with monkeys for 3 years, john survived until the age of 6 on roots and nuts before he was found

kamala and amala, india, 1920
aged 8 and 1 respectively, the pair were found living in a cave with wolves
running on all fours, the pair were physically deformed and had exceptional hearing, sight and sense of smell

marie angelique memmie le blanc (the wild girl of champagne), france, 1731
memmie was found at the age of 19 after living for 1o years alone, living on birds, frogs, fish, leaves and roots

the leopard boy, india, 1912
raised for 3 years by a leopardess, his toes were bent upright and he hard hard callouses on his hands + feets

shamdeo, india 1972
discovered aged 4 with sharpened teeth, hooked nails and callouses on his hands and feet

genie, USA, 1970
kept in solitary confinement for more than 10 years by her parents, genie could not speak or make any sound

victor (the wild boy of aveyron), france, 1797
caught in 1800 at the age of 12, victor was covered in scars and unable to speak 

rochom p’ngien (jungle girl), cambodia, 2007
rochom was caught at the age of 27 having been missing for 19 years. she walked on all fours and could not speak


via huck