What’s going on In the Playroom?

Twin Towers, by Jonathan Hobin, depicts the events of 9/11.

Hmm. Photographs of children recreating the magic (that’s the imaginative childlike side of me speaking) of some of the most horrifying natural and man made disasters. The photographer, Jonathan Hobin’s  photography series In the Playground comes up hard against, while also joining forces with, the power of imagery and its potential for social commentary.  Its depictions of children recreating scenes of Abu Ghraib, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, as well as imagery of the dark side of pop culture and femininity, pose a stark and unavoidable inquiry: are our children really safe from the contents of modern media?   Hobin’s arresting photographic composition and colors bring this inquiry to life, and expose the ‘playroom’ as a tainted space, a space that is not at all separate from the ugly injustice and evil of the world.  Beyond its observation of the inevitable ubiquity of modern media, the photographs act as a reminder, or more of a warning, that the highly mature subject matter of media (as shown in the horrifically accurate playroom portrayals), has the potential to influence the seeds of our future.  In this instance, replication is horrifying.  And it becomes even more horrifying when that mimicry leaves the playroom.


"A Boo Grave" from artist Jonathan Hobin's series In the Playroom, depicting the torture of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.


Here’s what others had to say about the series…

An olive-skinned boy glares ominously, pointing a toy plane towards twin building-block towers — one with a gaping hole, burning with construction paper fire, as toy soldiers fall to the playroom floor.

A boy on a box, covered in a black cloak and hood — his fingers wired with electrodes. A nearly-nude handcuffed boy, eyes screaming in terror as a stuffed dog wraps around his waist.

Abu Ghraib, 9/11 — meet the playroom.

A new series of controversial photographs from artist Jonathan Hobin, called In the Playroom, brings the headlines into the supposedly safe, carefree space of childhood playtime.

“I want people to acknowledge the fact that kids see the scariest things that are out there,” said Hobin of the exhibit, which among other notorious events, includes depictions of Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 tsunami, and the murder of JonBenét Ramsey.

Hobin, who studied photography at Ryerson, said the photos are intended to tear down to illusion that, in a media-saturated world, children can be sheltered.

I want people to acknowledge the fact that kids see the scariest things that are out there,” he said. “If you see it, they see it.”

>-By The Star

"White Nights", by Jonathan Hobin, depicts the Jonestown Massacre, when cult leader Jim Jones led or forced more than 900 people to commit suicide in Guyana in 1978.


In terms of Hobin’s work, it brings the expression “not in my backyard”, quite literally, right into our homes. Yes children are not censored from the news of the world, but beyond that, parents forget that there are children on the receiving end of stories of devastation. Your children may be seeing footage from the Haitian earthquake, for example, but there are children in Haiti suffering first-hand.

-Excerpt by Romi

For more on Hobin’s series, visit here.


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