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WAR-TOYS: Photographs by Brian McCarty

August 22 – October 3, 2012

Bomb Run, 2011, based upon a drawing by a young girl undergoing
treatment at the Spafford Children's Center in East Jerusalem.  
The location is the remains of a Palestinian airport near the
West Bank Barrier Wall.


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 realized 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 effects.  Through WAR-TOYS, I use a collaborative process to unlock and articulate children’s experiences, turning the language of play into serious dialogue.

Employing principles of expressive art therapy, my process begins with observation and guided interaction with children under the care of humanitarian organizations operating in geographic areas of active conflict.  Specialized therapists 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 a 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.  The resulting photographs provide an interpretive document of witnessed events and context for the children’s accounts.

The photographs and original children’s drawings in this exhibition were produced in 2011.  The children with whom I collaborated were under the care of the Spafford Children’s Center in East Jerusalem and the Ibdaa Cultural Center inside the Dheisheh Refugee Camp, West Bank.  Going forward, I’ll be working with children from diverse and sometimes divergent communities in Israel, Palestine, Columbia, Sudan and Uganda.

-Brian McCarty

More information about Brian McCarty and his work can be found at He recently gave a TEDxTalk in which he describes the War-Toys project.