Kids re-enact shocking news events in controversial Canadian photos

·Contributing Writer

Ottawa photographer Jonathan Hobin doesn't shy away from controversy nor divisive politics.

He has received death threats and accusations of pedophilia for his latest photo exhibit, "In the Playroom," but this doesn't seem to rattle him too much.

"It was quite a surprise, but I’d rather have people be excited and energetic about what I’m doing than really blasé about the whole thing,” he tells the Canadian Press.

The installment, 17 images of which will be featured beginning this Thursday at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, features kids dressed up as various people, often political figures, and re-enacting major news events -- many of which are horrific and violent.

The kids have portrayed events such as an Abu Ghraib prison scene, JonBenet Ramsey’s death, the 9-11 tragedy, the threat of nuclear war, as well as a portrait of the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.

"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," writes Brad Casey for Vice.

"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," Casey continues.

Hobin claims the parents are fully aware of the context their kids are being photographed and that they have to believe in what he is doing. Most of the kids are the children of friends or family and some are models from agencies.

"Sometimes the kids just get it. Like the 9-11 picture. These symbols have worked their way into our subconscious," he says.

The point of his exhibit? Hobin suggests he is trying to illustrate how young minds are resilient to the unnerving aspect of tragic news events.

“They might be better equipped to survive the emotional side of what’s happening at this age than we are as adults.”

When asked whether he would depict the recent Boston Marathon bombings, he says no, and suggests that it took him six or seven years before he did the 9-11 attacks, allowing time for the dust to settle.

What do think of the "In the Playroom" photo exhibit? Thought provoking or an inappropriate use of children? Tell us in the comments.

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