Photos of Children Reenacting the Things They See in the News

Children often incorporate things they see in the news and in movies into their playtimes, whether it’s soldiers engaged in battle or a superhero saving innocent people. Canadian photographer Jonathan Hobin has a project titled In The Playroom that offers a darker and more troubling look at this truth. The photographs show children at play, except instead of more traditional imaginary ideas, they’re reenacting the horrors of things seen in the news — things like 9/11, Jonestown, and the death of Princess Diana.

The scenes are all carefully staged sets, and the use of young children “prompts viewers to think about the first time they heard about or saw the aftermath of current events and to imagine how a child with limited context and experience might perceive the same event”.

Hobin writes,

In the Playroom is a metaphor for the impossibility of a protective space safe from the reach of modern media. The quizzical disposition of youth and the pervasive nature of the media are symbolically represented in Hobin’s images through tableau-vivant re-enactments of the very current events that adults might wish to keep out of their child’s world. Just as children make a game of pretending to be adults as a way to prepare and ultimately take on these roles in later life, so too do they explore things that they hear or see, whether or not they completely understand the magnitude of the event or the implications of their play.

You can find more photos from this project over on Hobin’s website.

(via designboom)

Image credits: Photographs by Jonathan Hobin and used with permission

  • pete n pete

    The Gitmo one is particularly disturbing.

  • rtfe

    -shock value-

  • Samcornwell

    This looks more like photos of children *posing at the request of the photographer* in scenes *made by the photographer* that they *may* have seen in the news.

  • Neoracer Xox

    hmmm not really working..

  • Just goin’ by

    Exactly! True.

  • Mansgame

    wow. prettay prettaay disturbing.

  • Posed Anborin

    If you had turned the camera 180 degrees, you would have had a wonderful photo essay titled “Bored Photographer Tries Way Too Bloody Hard”

  • Jackson Cheese

    This is AWESOME.

  • Chelsea Koontz

    This is really interesting. Some of you have forgotten the kind of flack photographers like Diane Arbus received for shooting mentally handicapped people, drag queens, and just random oddballs. The point is — kids are subjected to this horrible, “adult” stuff without understanding or pretense as to why other adults hurt each other. Technically, the images are well crafted and technically executed. Whether you agree or disagree with the content/narrative is on you, not the artist.

  • photosforus

    What parents left their kids with this guy.

  • Jackson Cheese

    So like every other photo of kids since the beginning of ever then?

  • Mantis

    The very fact that these photos piss so many of you off means that they work.
    Good art is supposed to incite a reaction.

  • Praying

    Is it possible to no like them without being pissed off? Is it possible critique could come from comparison to art we did like, and not from kneejerk reaction? I don’t like the above photos because they look completely contrived and speak more of desire to shock than of comment that is meanigful to me. That’s my opinion.

  • Melissa

    There’s too many gearheads on this site.

    The same people who freak out about controversial photos, are the ones who jerk off to the site of a whatever new shiny piece of metal & glass that Nikon is rumored to be releasing soon.

  • Boloxxa

    Maybe some people just don’t find the photos all that interesting. Does that make them a gearhead? I really don’t see much freaking out going on here. 2 generic comments about them being disturbing, one that says it doesn’t work, and one that points out correctly that they look “like photos of children *posing at the request of the photographer* in scenes *made by the photographer*” – I would suggest that your rush to discredit those who don’t like the photos with insults is the biggest freak out on the page

  • Ray Escamilla

    My thoughts exactly. A lot of the negative is response is due to the fact that PP narrated this differently than shot. FAIL.

  • Abignail

    and then??

  • James

    can I suck you middle tit?

  • Most Sleepy

    @Mantis – No reaction here. Looked for about a second and then dismissed them. Indifferent and curious how well they work in my case?

  • Etsy Worker

    You could remove every word of your post except “pretense” and it would be much more fitting for this article

  • Abu Who?

    wrong prison

  • Nobody

    So I post a bunch of photos of children getting physically abused and animals being burned to death, would that be considered art too? Or what if I included a photo of me urinating on your mothers grave stone, would that piss you off, or would it be art?

  • Dougie

    This should be called “children posing for a photographer who wants the children to look like they are re-enacting”. Very staged, not spontaneous on the children’s behalf.

    That doesn’t diminish the art, thought. Just sayin’.

  • Expert Miarze

    Mantis – you sound like someone with 2 months of community college art school. What nonsense

  • Tzctplus -

    Uhm. No. Good art is supposed to deliver a message. I am pissed of because I think the photographer had nothing to say, so he made something up.

  • eeesh

    wow – 20 people like cliches and high-school reasoning better than logic

  • Matt Gates

    Love it!

  • Amanda

    You sound REALLY pissed. Probably the angriest post ever on this site actually.

  • Amanda

    I’d love to see the art that you’ve created and the message it sends.
    Let’s see a link to your site, please. Then we can all be critics too.

  • Rich

    These are tasteless especially if you knew someone on the second plane into the WTC.

  • Seeit Orelse

    another ridiculous “you can only criticize something if you can do better” – so an ex-dancer can’t be a ballet critic? Makes no sense at all.

  • Roger More

    What do you call things better than this? Brilliant should be reserved for the very best. This ain’t it

  • Ibeleve Futura

    Jonathan, instead of dropping a second promotion of your work here and running off, why not respond to some of the posters? It would be much more interesting. Honestly, having your work be part of the CNN sensationalism machine only reinforces what some of the people here are saying about your work.

  • Frodo Bagman

    We don’t get it? What an arrogant thing to say! Did it dawn on you that some people get it and just don’t like it? There’s no possibility that you can use such blunt assumption as part of your argument and have the capacity to be the last word in art judgement – doesn’t work that way.

  • person

    Whether or not his intention was to say something, these photos instantly reminded me that the people who committed these atrocities were once children and there is an entire generation of children now that will commit similar or worse when they become adults. It just gets more complex from there….

  • John Kantor

    It has nothing to do with children – just his own psychological problems.

  • fluffypony

    Your premise is fundamentally flawed, and is nothing short of a straw-man argument. A person can have an eye for design, for example, and yet not be a designer.

  • Ezra Ounce

    The fact that the artist came to this site, saw an active discussion about his art and chose only to do some additional hit-and-run self-promotion pretty much confirms he is only out for attention and is happy to get it at any cost

  • Tew Hugankis

    Amanda, you defiant middle-finger avatar salute and marijuana-based twitter name really lend gravity to your “I know you are, but what am I”-level contribution.

  • Mantis Ormansgame

    Amateurish defence of amateurish work.

  • Cochese

    I’d disregard thenegative replies as the point seems to be crashing over their head. Personally, I’m not much of a fan, but I love the concept. Though, my initial reaction was they were boring, but seeing all of them, it’s fantastic.

  • Mansgame

    What a worthless excuse.

  • Last Time

    Shocking number of legitimate posts removed on this thread. Why not just disallow commenting if the only comments you’ll allow are ones that have positive things to say about the subject of the article? What’s the point in having a comment system if you can’t be open about what you comment on?

  • Michael Zhang

    We removed tens of comments left by a single individual (you, I assume) posing under different names and replying multiple times to the same comments. Use a single identity, and we won’t remove the comments as spam.

  • Eero Mäentie

    That would piss me off, but it would also be art.

  • D

    Does anyone know what the 4th picture (situation) is of?

  • smk53227

    gross to use children

  • Shnazzle

    What. The. F**k. I am honestly sick of this crap. Kids are kids. They shouldn’t become a part of this sick art that “makes you think” or whatever. It’s just like those nude pictures of Brooke Sheilds when she was a child that were “art”. Call it art, call it whatever you want, but it’s awful and children should not be subjected to it.

  • Jason Pramas

    it’s as if the works of Jeff Wall and Rineke Dijkstra were merged in some infernal machine … great stuff …

  • ur_blind_in_your_3rd_i

    First off someone needs to explain death to these kids. Second i rpomise you these kids have nooooo idea what they are being TOLD to depict. The title says it like there doin it on their onw accord. Nope! i doubt it. I bet you few of these kids will either suicide or be killed. PLEASE do not erase my comment because of that line. Just the truth. Study psychology. I child can easily be manipulated and destroyed..this is a good first step to do just that. Next time post some photos of a 6 year old girl being raped by 3 men…and see what happens. IS that art too then? Amanda smarten up