Skip to content

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and you will receive our stories in your inbox.

Child’s play – recreating tragedy. Art or schlock-horror for horror’s sake?

Posted in Aging, Home & Decor, and Relationships

The Twins
An unmistakable image.

‘In the Playroom’ is a series of images depicting children re-enacting disasters, current events, trials and political screw ups of our times. Canadian photographer and art director Jonathan Hobin covers the gamut – the 9/11 attacks, seal clubbing, the murder of a pre-teen beauty queen, Korean nuclear power, Abu-Ghraib and even the death of a princess.

Hobin caught a lot of flack for his series:  his images have been described as pure shock value, tasteless, ‘self-indulgent masturbation’ and “sick, sick, sick”.  And the children’s parents have been vilified for their involvement.

The death of Jon-Bebet Ramsey
The death of Jon-Benet Ramsey

Hobin told Vice magazine he “never photographed a kid without having a clear dialogue with the parents about what the intention is and what I expect(ed) the images to be. …… Most of these parents, they’re well educated, they get the arguments, and they think the photos portray a valid point that they want to participate in.”

Vice asked Hobin if the children understood what he was doing: “Sometimes the kids just get it. Like the 9/11 picture. Even though they are three or four years old, they saw the twin towers and said, ‘I’ll hold the airplane, this is where the plane hit the building.’ The mother was stunned. These symbols have worked their way into our subconscious. They are so ingrained in our culture, and they’re instantly recognizable.”

Abu-Gahrib echoes the Stanford Experiment of the 70s
Abu-Ghraib echoes the Stanford Experiment of the 70s

Let’s hope that children aren’t carrying the images of Abu-Ghraib around with them … but given the 24 hour looping of our news cycles, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are. Does our constant hunger for entertainment mean we inuring kids to the violence in the world?  Or does the lack of a laugh track and a catchy tune render them disinterested? Do kids understand the difference between news and entertainment?

Do we?

Hobin says: “To start talking about specifics, like bringing in culture, religion… things like that, I think that’s just too big for them to handle. They get the broad strokes. I’m sure it makes for some very interesting conversations on the way home from the photo shoot.”

Watching children play is fascinating – they spend ages making the rules, a brief time playing the game and the rest of the interaction is spent in throwing their toys or recriminations. Often ending in tears, and a regroup. And then a new set of rules.

Much like adults in pretty much any situation you can think of. And, contentions models and settings aside, that’s what these photos say to me.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(Full interview with Vice Magazine here, all images copyright Jonathan Hobin)


Share on Facebook


  1. silvia

    This is quite shocking not for what it is featured in these images but for its meanings. And I honestly do not know what to think about it.
    Is there a time span in our life that we can still call the age of innocence?
    And if it’s no longer possible is it better or worse?
    Are we always allowed to break boundaries?
    My answer is usually yes when art is involved

    May 18, 2013
  2. At first I was like ‘oh geez’ then it spoke to the reality of what this generation does actually see even when we think we are shielding their eyes.

    May 17, 2013
  3. I think the shock is that we are confronted with the reality that human beings can behave in disturbing ways. I think it’s incredible what he’s done with these subjects and it hits home that much harder when we are forced to face the fact that we’re all in it together, even our children.

    May 17, 2013

Got some thoughts? We would love to hear what you think

%d bloggers like this: