Art pushes boundaries and helps us understand our own traumatic experiences and no one has more trouble understanding trauma than children. So why is Jonathan Hobin using them as models in his provocative photos of scary world events?
The Toronto Star sat down with Hobin to discuss his shocking new series "In the Playroom" which shows children reenacting shocking world events. His photos, he says, aim to "explore how young minds deal with the unsettling side of the modern media-scape." The Abu Ghraib tortures, the World Trade Center attacks and even Osama bin Laden's death are rendered using tiny tots in the kinds of situations you don't let them watch on TV. Though the children aren't using real guns and aren't getting hurt, it's still shocking to see a young kid covered in what's obviously ketchup dressed as a dead bin Laden.
And while his work has gotten people talking (he's admitted to receiving death threats), he does raise questions parents wrestle with daily. How do you help kids process scary news events, especially in a world when it's played on the television, radio and computer all the time? Hobin stresses parents are involved in all steps of his process and he explains to them exactly how he's posing the children, but that hasn't kept some people from getting angry about his work and call it exploitative. He even suggests children playing in this way helps them. “In fact, science shows that children need to physically re-enact things in order to process them," he explained to the Star. "There’s a tactile nature to their minds." Besides, there's something adults can even learn from kids. Play is a child's main tool but "it also reflects their emotional resilience versus the fragility of adulthood."