Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Children of war

I saw this photo (above) recently as Web sites were beginning to publish their end-of-the-year and end-of-the-decade slideshows. It struck me for a moment due to its disturbing juxtaposition with a photo I took of my own son this summer (below).

I see images almost everyday of children from far off places in the world engaged in what would frankly not be considered normal activity in "civilized" societies. Playing with a toy gun certainly isn't the issue here -- I shot a lot of friends and my brother dead many times with toy guns during my childhood. What's unsettling about this image is that it's of a child in a war torn nation like Afghanistan. It's like it's all he'll ever know, or at least all he's known for much of what he can remember in his short life thus far. Playing "war" in a nation at war must happen all the time. I've certainly seen other photos from Iraq, for instance, of children acting menacingly with plastic toys.

I didn't feel the same discomfort when I shot several frames of Henry on a kiddie ride at the Puyallup Fair near Seattle. I just thought it was silly and in now way reflected his reality as a small child. I guess I forget that he's a child of a nation at war. No doubt he has no understanding of that yet. But I certainly do, as his father and as his photographer.

Top photo: Anja Niedringhaus / AP

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