But this time around, Hubbard’s Internet fame borders more on infamy — at least according to the many critics who have expressed horror and outrage over the photographer’s latest shoot: that of several young children, none older than 7, re-creating often violent scenes from The Walking Dead.
“I’m a huge fan of the show,” Hubbard, a mother of two who is based in Woodbridge, New Jersey, tells Yahoo Beauty. So she got the idea to re-create a couple of scenes, just for fun, using her young children — and then her neighbor, also a fan of the show, wanted to get her son involved as well. It just expanded from there, she says, to a group of about 20 kids who wound up posing as dead bodies, murderers, and about-to-be-killed characters from the cult-TV favorite. Hubbard says none of the parents involved in the shoots expressed any concern over the grim subject matter, and they were, in fact, “so supportive.”
The trouble started when the shoot was complete, and Hubbard posted the pics over the weekend to Facebook — where some were shared close to 200,000 times and received more than 42,000 reactions and 26,000 comments, with many people upset by what they saw. Those complaints (and apparent reports to Facebook monitors) resulted in some of Hubbard’s photos being removed from the social media site and then reinstated, as well as in the photographer being banned from Facebook for two days.
“I was furious — furious,” she says. “There were so many bad comments about me, about my daughter, and I couldn’t delete them because Facebook blocked me, so that was really frustrating. I felt so stifled and censored. I was like, screaming without any sound.”
While Hubbard has since removed many of the most egregious comments, plenty of criticisms remain, including one person who dubbed the whole concept “sick,” adding, “All of these parents who allowed their kids to participate should be reported to Child Welfare … It is emotional abuse. These kids will go through life thinking it is fun to point guns at people’s heads, and one day that gun will go Bang! Wonder how many of the innocent children used for the pitiful notoriety of these pictures will end up killing or being killed.”
One woman took a sarcastic approach, posting some real, disturbing images (since removed) of children from the Holocaust or from terrorism scenes, noting, “I found some more cute, fun photos of children, just like yours! Just look at the innocence, just look at you profiting from trivializing the pain, suffering, and death of others! You’re SO clever!”
Still another asked, “I have a legitimate question about the theme for this shoot. These kids are all representing a television show that is clearly NOT meant for kids to see. Do these kids know anything about The Walking Dead? Have they ever seen it? No child should EVER put a gun (real or fake) to another person’s head. NEVER. I am in no position so tell someone how to parent, but I am also a professional photographer, and this post represents so much about what I feel is wrong with this industry. Yes, you gained a ton of new ‘fans’ and this post has been shared thousands of times, but it’s all done on the pretense of controversy. NOT technical skill or creativity. These kids are being used as props to represent something that they know NOTHING about for YOUR gain. … That is incredibly disheartening and offensive to me.”
Plenty of others, meanwhile, posted words of support for Hubbard and the project, such as “great,” “adorable,” “beautiful work! Don’t pay attention to all these idiots,” and “I thought they were cute and funny. I am the mother of a 2-year-old. I am an avid gun lover as well.” One noted, “PEOPLE get a Grip. Oh my they are NOT your kids. Wow, stupidity has a new member — YOU. Same people OK with gender-neutral bathrooms. I LOVE the Idea of the shoot, very creative.”
Hubbard maintains that the kids had fun and that she has been blindsided by the harsh reactions. “Bottom line is I don’t personally understand how people are offended. I didn’t make this up,” she says about the storylines. “I can get people maybe being upset by the graphic imagery, but there are several warnings, and they are clicking on the photos despite all the warnings.” She pointed that out in a June 5 Facebook post, as well, adding, “… so if you chose to ignore the warnings and disclaimers and click the photo, don’t come crying to me if you don’t like it.”
Still, what about the feelings of the kids? Their involvement here is what concerns Laura Markham, PhD, a Brooklyn child psychologist and parenting expert. “Children under the age of 5 are not always clear about what is real and what is fantasy. They are easily traumatized, and setting up reenactments of violent scenes could certainly be traumatizing even if there is no actual violence,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. “Would these same people have the children re-enact a rape scene? No, because we hope they don’t know that rape exists at this age. I would also hope they don’t know that violence like this exists at that age.”