Almost a decade after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse story first came to public attention, the photographs are still a topic of much controversy. One photographer however has flipped the controversy on its head and made them the inspiration for his portraiture series featuring children, and then some. Jonathan Hobinentered the spotlight a few years ago when his images were deemed just as controversial as the original images from which he based his “In The Playroom” series.
is an artist and director who works primarily with photographs. He has done extensive work from portraiture to commercial and editorial photography. His work draws inspiration from popular culture, but reinvents them into a darker interpretation, especially when involving childhood themes.
Hobbin reached viral popularity when his 2010 project “In the Playroom”
was picked up by different online news outlets and blogs. The project depicts children dressed in adult clothes reenacting some of the most tragic moments in popular history. Many news organizations commented on the controversial nature of the project
which involved disturbing scenes, juxtaposed with children posing in a scene which they may have no idea about.
Hobin’s images are staged to resemble some of the most popular news stories in the last half-century, including references to the 1978 Jonestown Massacre
, the accidental death of Princess Diana, the Abu Ghraib prison tortures
, and the 9/11 attacks. Most of these scenes make use of toys, Halloween props or other items commonly found in a children’s room. While some have condemned this seemingly lighthearted take on some of the world’s most awful tragedies, a few others have praised the cultural impact of these reenactments
. One thing that both sides agree on is the obscurity of the artist’s purpose for these images.
What exactly is the point of these controversial photographs? In Hobin’s own words
, he wants “people to acknowledge the fact that kids see the scariest things that are out there. The fact that children are like sponges and soak up everything around them is an interesting thing to think about since so much violence and issues within society are televised on a daily basis.”
It’s true that children might not be able to understand the tremendous impact of these historic events. While adults count the deaths and damages involved in each story, children might only look at the images without paying attention to the context, if ever they watch the news long enough to take in the scene.
Hobin insists that his photographs are “a metaphor for the impossibility of a protective space safe from the reach of modern media.
” However, instead of inviting viewers to reflect on the impact of today’s media on the “tabula rasa” state of children, he may have inadvertently created a controversy that overshadows his good intentions.