I'm all for art and freedom of expression, but I draw the line when art manipulates kids for its own purpose. Case in point: a New Jersey photographer recreated key scenes from The Walking Dead using a group of 24 young children - including her own kids, aged three and five.
Alana Hubbard's images see the children simulating scenes from the series, namely "Carol shooting the young girl Lizzie in the head, villain Negan preparing to smack someone with a baseball bat covered in barbed wire, and Daryl Dixon escaping a pack of zombies on his motorcycle."
Hubbard likens her photos to kids "playing modern-day cops and robbers," and sees nothing wrong with the shoot, which took place in the woods.
Do children love to play dress up? Hallowe'en was invented for that purpose. But typically dress-up comes from the fertile grounds of kids' own imagination. It's not meticulously staged by adults. Nor does dress-up usually involve violent and morbid montages.
"I think it's pretty sick for you to expose children to the show or these ideas in general," wrote a commenter. "Would you let them pose or 'pretend' for Fifty Shades of Grey? Equally disturbing. What a bummer for you to use your talent and public forum in this way."
Even though some of the bloodied effects were added via Photoshop, social media came running with pitchforks at the ready. Facebook pulled, then quickly reinstated, the photos.
"Art is subjective,'' Hubbard said. "Art creates emotion. If everyone just posts lollipop and gumdrop photos, what's the point of that? If this was an off-Broadway show featuring children as The Walking Dead cast, do you think there would be any outrage?"
Yes, there would, probably.
While I wouldn't go so far as to criticize Hubbard's parenting skills, I do question her professional judgment in this case. There's nothing wrong with pushing the envelope when it comes to art. And not all art involving children has to be about "lollipops and gumdrops." But involving children purely for 'shock value' feels cheap and irresponsible.
Hubbard admits that all the backlash will be worth it if it leads "to [her work] being recognized by the show."
Image Source: Facebook