Jonathan Hobin is a Canadian photographer whose series In the Playroom features a range of children reenacting some of the most brutal news stories of our generation, from JonBenet Ramsey’s death and the Siegfried and Roy tiger mauling to 9/11 and the threat of nuclear war. At first glance it’s hard to tell if the children in the photos understand the horror they’re conveying or if they’re just having a lot of fun. Regardless,many people have reacted strongly. The photos have been described as sick, pure shock, and tasteless, self-indulgent masturbation. Even the children’s parents have been vilified for their involvement.
If you’re in Canada this week, In the Playroom is coming to Toronto for an exhibition at the Gladstone. I gave Jonathan a call at his home in Ottawa to talk about the criticism he’s received, the way kids absorb the news, how his entire series is a criticism of Western media, and whether or not we’re all giant kids playing adults. Oh, and he was nice enough to give us some photos that have not yet been shown anywhere online. So take a look for yourself.