Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and other tragic massacres, gun ownership and Second Amendment rights have been a site of intense controversy; on both sides of the debate, fear is a driving force, with one side arguing that guns provide protection and the other asserting that firearms cause more deaths and injuries.
How do guns factor into the lives of younger generations, born during this period of political strife? The photographer An-Sophie Kesteleyn adds to the dialogue with My First Rifle, a series of portraits of children bearing Crikett rifles, a firearm designed for children with a smaller scale and a variety of color choices. Beside each image, Kesteleyn places a torn, school-lined notebook page, onto which her subjects write their deepest fears.
Many of the .22 caliber rifles look like colorful toys; shot atop their small beds and beside Disney princess merchandise, the children appear as though caught by adults in a game of make-believe. They position their guns across their bodies in a protective manner, shielding themselves and their cozy bedrooms from the lens. The rooms, neatly ordered, maintain a certain innocence that is at times irreconcilable with the notion of a weapon intended to wound or kill.
Furthering this thread of childlike naiveté are the children’s drawings depicting their fears; these scrawling notes, touchingly misspelled, often assign terror to fictitious or extinct creatures: zombies, werewolves, dinosaurs. In this way, the artist incorporates the weapons into an elaborate realm of youthful nightmares. Depending on the viewer, this choice could either implicate NRA activists as infantile conspiracy theorists, or it could paint the world as a dangerous place wherein weaponry is necessary. What do you think? (via Feature Shoot)
All images © An-Sofie Kesteleyn