Photographer Brian McCarty uses toys to bring to life children’s drawings of living through war in the War Toys project.
The WAR-TOYS project seeks to explore war from the perspective of children living in its day-to-day reality. Because cognitive ability is often ahead of language development, children typically share their experiences and cope with associated feelings through indirect methods of communication, such as art and play. As a result, their personal accounts of war often go unseen, even when studying its affects. Through WAR-TOYS, I use a collaborative process to unlock and articulate children’s experiences, turning the language of play into serious dialog.
Employing principles of expressive art therapy, my process begins with observation and guided interaction with children under the care of humanitarian organizations operating in areas of active conflict. Specialized therapists and caregivers conduct art-based interviews on my behalf, inviting children to draw pictures about their lives and experiences. The resulting illustrations serve as art direction and basis for photographic exploration.
Toy-surrogates are placed and posed in accordance to the children’s descriptions, integrated through forced perspective into the actual locations where described events occurred. Commentary is given on socioeconomic conditions through the use of locally acquired toys, seen against the conditions in which these children live. When possible and under the guidance of specialists, I invite the children to actively participate and use the photographic process as a form of therapeutic play. The resulting photographs provide an interpretive document of witnessed events and context for the children’s accounts”