Toy shopping in Ukraine: Toy war founder Brian McCarty shares his vision

Brian McCarty, a self-proclaimed toy enthusiast and incredible photographer, tells stories many people don’t want to hear in a way that is familiar to the world. He describes children’s stories of conflict and loss through toys as an excuse against the horrors of war.

In December 2015, Fstoppers published an article about how ISIS stole one of Brian’s toy images, Cinderella, and used it for extremist propaganda. Almost eight years later, we found Brian at Photoville Festival in New York, full of passion for what he does with War Toy®and chat about the latest developments after returning from Ukraine.

This project has been his mission since 2011 and he has traveled to many war-torn areas such as the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and now Ukraine to work with children. in the affected areas. He founded the NGO War Toys® in 2019 and, with Art Therapists, they share the stories children tell through their drawings. Brian then recreated the scenes the kids drew by buying local toys, visiting websites and taking pictures of them. He mentioned having a lot of popular toys: “It has evolved over a number of years. I’ve traveled to all of these places and actually seen identical toys.”

This is what makes his image so powerful. We all come across toys at some point in our lives, and we all understand the language of games. Brian’s image breaks down the walls of religion, race, and culture. They discard the “we and them” argument because we know the toys, we’ve played with them. See the painting Family at War and Brian’s picture side by side, it touches the house… civilian children are in the air, and all they want to be is children. They didn’t understand what it was about, why their homes were destroyed, their parents killed, and why they were shoved back and forth between the victors.

You rarely come across important photographic works. There’s a lot of great work out there, but the key shots are often reserved for photojournalists. The work that Brian produces and, by extension, what War Toys® contains is really a flame in the dark. From art therapy-based photography collaborations to toy development and distribution, he does the talking. At the Photoville festival, he unveiled a prototype of a non-combat toy meticulously designed to honor photojournalists.

The first two figurines are based on photojournalists Byron Smith And Veronique de Viguerie. War Toys® meticulously collects information from the people they rely on to make toys, friends and family. For example, Byron’s figure consists of two Fujifilm X-Pro3 camera he is currently carrying.

This shift in common sense allows children to change the way they play and get to know unarmed heroes. When you open the War Toys ® website, the first words you read are: “Play war for peace,” which summarizes the entire show. The toy is culturally universal and if children can be exposed to the idea of ​​not going to war toy soldiers, they can start to see the world differently and create their own stories. Conventional battle sets force the user to choose a side as all characters are designed as soldiers. Brian wants to allow kids to expand play options and introduce non-combat options into their imagination to save civilians. This will allow children to identify with a mild-mannered protagonist rather than an old-fashioned gunfight action figure.

Brian hopes that War Toys® can become a “non-profit toy company that can continue to bring to market better designs, workable designs, things that help children and their heads.” invest in areas that no one else but nonprofits can.” As he says, it creates tiny ripples that in themselves may seem insignificant, but when measured together, can change global perception. More figurines are being prepared, including aid workers, frontline rescuers and photojournalists, and a digital board game. To provide support or for more information, visit Brian at the Photoville Festival through June 18, or visit website.

Image used with permission of Brian McCarty


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