Evil Dictator Baby Photographs

Danish-Norwegian artist Nina Maria Kleivan has come under fire for a series of photographs in which she dresses up her year-old daughter Faustina as some of history’s most evil figures. The series, titled “Potency”, has been shown in exhibitions around Europe, and is meant to explore the nature of evil.

Benito Mussolini

Adolf Hitler

Mao Zedong

Saddam Hussein

Idi Amin

Joseph Stalin

The Telegraph quotes Kleivan as saying,

We all have evil within us. Even small children are evil towards each other. Even my daughter could end up ruling Denmark with an iron fist. The possibility is still there. You never know.

Even though my generation doesn’t speak out about the war, silently our cultural circle sees Hitler as evil incarnate. But this is not a deliberate provocation, it calls for reflection. Even though comical, you’re not supposed to only laugh at these pictures. You need to contemplate them, ponder where this evil comes from.

While reaction to the series has been mixed, some groups have taken offense to the work. The head of the Canadian Jewish Congress is quoted as saying,

Surely, there’s a better way to explore evil than to throw a swastika on a baby.

What do you think of this series? Is it appropriate as art, or has the artist taken it too far?

(via Boing Boing)

  • foresmac

    I'm offended that there's no George W Bush.

  • michael

    I'm offended how flat the lighting in.

  • Tyson Blades

    Pol Pot? Where did he get to?

  • Ranger 9

    The question was: “Is it appropriate as art, or has the artist taken it too far?”

    My answer it: It's appropriate, but not interesting. Come on, is anybody really surprised by the notion that Hitler was an infant once? Is it news to anybody who's ever been around them that babies can be really mean to each other?

    In that sense, I could argue that the artist hasn't taken it far ENOUGH. For example, if she had used a less detached photographic style — if she had made her daughter look really warm, cute, and adorable — then we'd have to deal with the contrast between our reactions to the cute baby and our reactions to what she was costumed to represent.

    This treatment is so sterile that it's easy to dismiss (a dismissal made more tempting by the fact that, for example, many Chinese revere Mao as a hero, and I suspect a lot of Russians would judge Stalin as simply ruthless, at worst, rather than evil. It might even be possible to rationalize away Mussolini as an ambitious ne'er-do-well who got mixed up with the wrong crowd.)

  • QuBe

    This doesn't explore the nature of evil.
    It is just yet another contemporary artist bankrupt of real talent indulging in the perverse and sensational for vanity and commercial gains.

    No one of genuinely thoughtful disposition seeks understanding of the motives of dictators by attiring their child in their uniforms…and capitalizing on the produced imagery.
    One does not understand “evil” by patronizing it.
    A child acts without judgment….a dictator acts solely from judgment.
    They are diametrically opposed motives.

    Were I one of the millions who endured and perished under the reigns of these psychopaths, I would find obscenity in such disregard and insensitivity…

  • Scott

    Shoot, all I wanna do is reach down there and pinch their little cheeks.


  • Peter Wong

    I think the world “evil” is a bit too strong since not all of them were necessarily evil. I think the usage of the word “evil” will leave many offended.

  • E.G.

    Sure it's art. Some art ticks people off. Just because it's not Thomas Kinkade (blech!!!) doesn't mean that it has no artistic merit.

    In fact, because it is the polar opposite of Thomas Kinkade, it does have merit.

    Peter Wong: No, all of those men were extremely evil. Not a one of them can get off of that hook.

  • kevjohn

    Man, I wish I could get my hands on a baby to exploit and make myself famous!
    I've been hearing about these photos all day, and now that I see them I can't believe how uninteresting they are. I wouldn't say they have no artistic merit though. I mean whoever tailored those cute little clothes definitely has some artistry coursing through their veins. The photography is sub-Walmart Photo Studio though.

  • Bleh

    It's art Jim, but pretty dreadful art. It's tasteless, unimaginative and lacking in any real artistic merit. They're not good photos, the costumes are lame, and the poses are a bit meaningless. Much better to use older children/better scenery and props, and design the pictures with a bit more originality and wit.

    How does it question the nature of evil? It raises the question why a mother finds it amusing/thought-provoking enough to go to the trouble of demeaning her baby just to get cheap titallation out of some provocative “art”. This sort of thing belongs in the family photo album and serves no purpose other than to bring out every five years or so to hideously embarrass the poor kid, which will inevitably culminate at her 18th birthday party where all her mates can sit round, gawp at the photos and have a giggle, while the kid seethes quietly at her mother's self-indulgence, and later has a massive row with her.

    Questioning whether or not the leaders shown are evil isn't really the issue here – they are. Forget your hero-worship of Stalin/Mao, they allowed millions to die and imposed horrific restrictions of freedom and cruelty onto those who survived. Fact. But you should certainly question the mother's motives behind this inept attempt at being deep, but actually comes off as being trite .

    Oh, and George W Bush wasn't evil, just lazy, greedy, selfish and thoughtless. If that constitutes evil, then most of human civilisation is inherently evil.

  • Bleh

    It's not terribly offensive either. It's boring.

  • Bleh

    It would be more offensive to put blackface onto the baby in the photo of “Idi Amin”.

  • harnesssss

    hey where's bush? or blair? – i know there's one guy on this post saying 'bush isn't evil' but…
    surely the series should try and reflect the whole world's concept of evil, not just the historical western viewpoint?
    and what about the IRA?
    hmmmm itd be interesting to have middle eastern babies dressed up as terrorists.
    the thing about evil is that it is by neccessity faceless : even hitler enjoyed a cuppa tea. the only way to dehumanise is to wear a mask innit…

  • Bleh

    Oh, grow up. Bush and Blair were not despotic tyrants who killed millions of their own people, despite what you read on the internet. They may have been responsible for an unnecessary war, but you might as well dress this baby up as the majority of world leaders in that case. Blair did some pretty good things domestically. He was elected democratically and left office of his own volition. Bush… well, … he didn't kill millions of his own people, let's leave it at that.

    The IRA were murderous bastards, sure, but they didn't rule a country. Why stop at dressing babies up as Muslims and/or why blame muslims for all terrorism and evil in the world today? Surely if you want to explore the concept of evil, why not dress them up as paedophile Catholic priests? Or as members of the KKK? Or as hit-and-run drunk drivers? Or as faceless corporations? Dressing your baby up as Hitler and photgraphing the results doesn't explore the nature of evil. That's the point I'm trying to make. These photos, and the rationale behind them, are bullshit, and the “artist” is a moron with an inflated opinion of themselves and their rubbish family snaps.

  • newyorkkid

    I think its pretty funny to look at. I think people are raised evil. Yea i know people have evil in them but its how they are raised in there surrounding. Thats how they become evil.

  • Michael

    This is pretty irrelevant and uncreative stuff. Pseudo-provocative, but in the end meaningless.
    I would not even call it art.

  • risdalum

    Too simplistic and fails to convey the idea of “evil.” Does the evil come from uniforms? How would she show “evil” personalities that wear no distinguished uniform and/or facial hair?



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  • Cas_eindhoven

    I for one am not sure what all the art-snobbery is about.  It isn’t “high art,” necessarily, and it may be simplistic in a Norman Rockwell kind of way, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring or b.s.  It’s creative in the petty sense that a lot of advertising is creative, maybe, but it’s still creative, imaginative, and it has its audience, even if the audience is a mass one and not literati or something.

  • Team

    Wow, is it egocentric in here or is it just me?  (jokes)  Art is subjective, folks.  You have an opinion and you’re free to state as much but never think you define art for everyone else.  “This bores me” is a perfectly fine statement of opinion.  “This is not art” without a qualifying “to me” reveals an heir of arrogance.

    At question is whether or not the artist crossed some moral or ethical boundary.  My response to that, and it is only my opinion, is no.  The artist uses the medium of photography to express her feelings – to encourage the viewer to reconsider these historical figures from a different perspective that we normally would.  I’m  to think about the fact that most of us *believe* we’re incapable of being so evil and, yet, were we raised from birth in exactly the same environment, under the very same influences, well, who’s to say you or I wouldn’t have done the same thing?  (Standford Prison Experiment, anyone?) 

    For me, these images provoke thought, reflection, and emotion, despite the flat lighting.  Perhaps others of find enough depth in the subject matter to qualify it as art, too.

  • Team

    **edit:  …an AIR of arrogance.**

  • ysoserious

    The white balance on Idi Amin is way off.