Disturbing Photos of Kids Will Make You Uncomfortable

jonathan hobin photo kids 9/11

"The Twins"

Does this photo of two little boys in their playroom reenacting one of the most horrible days in American history -- 9/11 -- make you uncomfortable? Us too. But I'm pretty sure that's the point Canadian photographer Jonathan Hobin is trying to make in his photography series In the Playroom, which includes kids playing Abu-Ghraib, Hurricane Katrina, and many other disturbing news-related stories too.

jonathan hobin photo kids Abu graib

"A Boo Grave"

jonathan hobin photo kids Hurricane Katrina

"The Saints"

 Here's how Hobin explains his work:

"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 my 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.

While I'm pretty sure I wouldn't hang one of these photographs on my living room wall, I completely get where the artist is coming from -- and well, I agree and find his message to be a very important one for parents. Kids understand way more than we think they do, and what they don't understand, they figure through a variety of learning techniques, one being through play. Even when it's scary. Especially when it doesn't make any sense to them.

Hobin is making a very bold statement with these images, and it makes us uncomfortable because it's true. We know our kids are piecing together the ugly truths that we only begin to understand in adulthood, and that scares the crap out of us. When I was a kid, my friends and I explored many adult themes through play, including sex, abduction, rape, prostitution, poverty, child abuse, and more. And those are just the themes we explored with Barbies.

Kids are going play out life's scariest stories -- whether in their minds or in their playrooms -- and we as parents ought to be prepared for the day we walk in and see it in action. We cannot turn away from our kids if we find them figuring things out in a way that disturbs us or feels too mature, and for that reason, we should look long and hard at these photographs and think about what we will do, instead of turn away.

What's your reaction to these photos?

Images via jhobin.com; artwork available at the Dale Smith Gallery 
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