Brian McCarty is a Los Angeles-based photographer who has used toys in his art for nearly two decades. Recently, McCarty has been working on his WAR-TOYS project, which aims to depict a child's perspective of war and turmoil in the Middle East through a series of photos featuring toys.
McCarty worked with children in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, which produced a variety of drawings. Some children drew the keys their families kept as symbols of the homes they had to flee. A few boys portrayed heroic militants with homemade bombs. Young girls in Gaza City often drew mothers and babies near scenes of carnage.
Yet most of the drawings depicted the children's fears. One boy's drawing expressed how unattainable safety felt even with defense systems ready. It shows the sky full of incoming rockets and defensive interceptor missiles, while on the ground a bus explodes.
The use of toys as surrogates gives McCarty's reenactments a playful, fictional distance while shifting the perspective to that of a child's: closer to the ground, helplessly witnessing the shocking blur of play and violence.
The local toys also reveal the socio-economic layers of the region. While most of the toys in the region were made in China; in Gaza they were often botched discount versions.
McCarty hopes that WAR-TOYS is just the first part of a larger project, as he works to collaborate with people in Afghanistan, Sudan, and Colombia. That's easier envisioned than completed, though, thanks to the difficulty of negotiating to gain access to such dangerous places and the actual presence of said danger once surpassing all of the red tape.
And that's only the first difficulty. There's also an element of danger. He recalled one particularly harrowing photo shoot: "Throughout, the sounds of outbound rockets and concussions from incoming airstrikes grew in intensity. I managed to complete my work, while experiencing first-hand the fear and anxiety the children face throughout their lives." [Wired]