Last week, Jas of our photography forum posted a link to the work of American photographer Greg Cohen and his Untitled Gun Project. This photo essay depicts modern American children posing with guns. It intrigued me enough to contact Greg Cohen and ask him the following questions about this project. Here are his answers below.
MK: How did you conceive this project?
GC: The project was inspired by the massacre in Newtown, CT, where I grew up. These families’ entire universe have been turned inside out and if we don’t keep this fervent conversation alive, it’s destined to become another story soon to fade away. The problem is complex, and part of it is that we’re completely desensitized to violence and killing; so I wanted to create images that are difficult to look at. If they’re disturbing, then that’s an emotion worth exploring. If they’re not disturbing, then that’s something to consider even more. Essentially this is a plea from the children… why can’t this violence stop?
MK: Who are these children, are they from the USA?
GC: Yes, all the children live in the US. I reached out to families who were affected emotionally by the event and who wanted to respond in some way.
MK: Are the guns real, where did you get them?
GC: The guns are not real. I am completely against children handling real guns. It’s against the law for kids to drive or smoke, why is it legal for them to play with guns? Frequently I hear about a kid with a gun accidentally shooting someone, and I’m never surprised. Why? Because kids instinctively like to play, that’s what they do. And they should be playing, but instead we’re living in a world where many children are forced to grow up too fast. It’s tragic.
MK: Did you leave the project Untitled so people could title it for themselves?
GC: I considered a lot of titles for the project, but nothing felt right. They were either too clever and they belittled the gravity of the situation; or they seemed too limited, and cornered people in a given direction. So yes, I want people to run with it however they wish. If an appropriate title came to me, I’d use it, but nothing so far.
MK: How long have you been working on this project and what are its future plans?
GC: The idea to photograph children with guns began a long time ago, but originally it was a very different project and the images I had in mind were more involved. When the murder happened in Newtown, the project became clear, and I felt inspired to simplify the entire thing.