US photographer wants the world to see the horrors of war, but through the eyes of a child

He uses art-therapy drawings and interviews with the children to depict their accounts using toys

Drawing of a woman stoned to death

There is no blood or mangled bodies. Instead, there are pink dolls and blue tanks.
A bird from a video game represents bombs falling from the sky. An elephant symbolises a lost sibling.

Doll being pelted with stones

McCarty's most recent work was set in Mosul where thousands of civilians where caught up in the fight to oust Islamic
State. Social workers say children who witnessed the violence will suffer trauma for years.

A drawing of two siblings fleeing

"It is from that childhood innocence, that very pure place of telling the story but not telling the story, and that is what is so powerful," he said.
He uses art-therapy drawings and interviews with the children to depict their accounts using toys."I harness that to tell their stories and give it to an audience that normally maybe wouldn’t look," said McCarty, 43.

Depiction of drawing with toys

The children draw the horror, the loss, and the harm they suffered. Often, their accounts are presented with symbols which McCarty then recreates with toys.
The result is a mix of the realistic and the absurd, with a hint of pop culture.

An Iraqi child and his father fleeing

"People will connect to this. Especially for Western audiences where it is so easy to cast people in war zones as 'the others'," McCarty said in an interview in Beirut.

An elephant symbolizes a lost sibling

"It gets past that because these are just toys. They are just plastic totems of real people.".

Toy representation of a drawing by an Iraqi refugee kid

McCarty said the process of visualising the drawings takes days.
Once he has chosen an image and found the toys to recreate it, his work on the ground has sometimes put him the danger.

McCarty working in Mosul

"I did this entire set up in the old city, the smell of death everywhere. When we were done we realized there was a skull and a body a meter away, the beard still intact."
"I did this toy photo next to a dead ISIS fighter still in the rubble. That is the weird, bizarre reality of the project."

A toy tank arranged near a destroyed car

McCarty said the initial motivation for his work came from his father, a Vietnam war veteran who rarely spoke about the war.
His work, which began in 1996 in Croatia, has also taken him to Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq.
"I went into this project from a very academic, artistic point of view and all of that of went out the window when I saw a little girl colouring pools of blood for the first time."