Dark Childhood: ‘In the Playroom’


These award-winning, large-scale works by acclaimed photo artist and art director Jonathan Hobin show children enacting their versions of major events — the World Trade Center attacks, the murder of child beauty-queen JonBenét Ramsey, or the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.  The dark themes of In the Playground have made the works controversial. Critics have both praised and denounced the use of children, earning Hobin the reputation as one of the most polarizing contemporary visual artists in Canada.  (Above: American Idol)

hobin-gothimGot Him

In the Playroom is a metaphor for the impossibility of a protective space safe from the reach of modern media. The inquisitive propensity of youth and the pervasive nature of the media are symbolically represented in these images through tableau-vivant re-enactments of the very current events that adults might wish to keep out of their child’s world –Notes for the exhibition of Hobin’s work at this year’s Contact Photography Festival, through May in Toronto.


The Twins

Anyone with children will recognize Hobin’s expression of the troubling power of a child’s imagination. “Whether or not children completely understand the magnitude of an event such as 9/11, or the implications of their play, their willingness to confront catastrophe, as imagined by Hobin, critiques cultural assumptions about the innocence of childhood,” the Contact Festival notes point out.


This work – 39 Lashes – reflects news around Tammy Faye Messner, the former televangelist and Christian singer who battled drug addiction and later inoperable cancer.  Below, an expression of torture at Abu Ghraib.


A Boo Grave

Jonathan Hobin’s work has appeared in newspapers and magazines, on CNN’s Newsroom and on national Canadian TV. His art direction credits include films for Bravo!, CBC Television and the Lifetime Channel. Hobin was the Canadian production designer for the first Slovenian/Canadian film co-production, The Maiden Danced to Death (2010), a collaboration with Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. Hobin recently won the open call for the prestigious International Photography Festival GuatePhoto. He has a 2003 BFA in Image Arts: Photography, from Ryerson University in Toronto.

Jonathan Hobin’s website, here.

13 replies »

  1. Condivido il pensiero di vantripper Non si strumentalizzano i bambini (dal vero) in questo modo.

    Per rispetto di tutti i bambini vittime di adulti e di guerre e per rispetto degli stessi ‘ piccoli modelli ‘ che da adulti avranno le idee un po’ confuse se la loro vita continuerà ad essere ‘strumentalizzata in questa maniera-

    Per il mio punto di vista questo non ha nulla a che fare con la dark fantasy.

    Se volete l’orror vero basta andare a vedere foto ‘vere’ famose di bambini vittime di guerre e di fame.


  2. Controversy is an art form by and of itself, as these can lead to mostly hyperbolic but a few very fruitful discussions.


  3. I kinda see it as a dark fantasy, like those you see in some manga comics. It’s like the parents are having nightmare, seeing things they saw in the news happening to their children. I wonder what was in the artist’s mind when he created those scenes. 😀


    • I’m not sure how I feel about it, but that’s exactly why he’s become so controversial. A lot of people feel the way that you do, an understandable position.


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