William Laven, "B-1 Lancer", 2005, carbon inkjet print, edition of 5.

William Laven, “B-1 Lancer”, 2005, carbon inkjet print, edition of 5.

William Laven

“War Models” is a series of photographs of unassembled model airplane kits of aircraft flown in the current Iraqi war. These images of children’s toys touch on the American fascination with symbols of power and acknowledge the complex relationship to the destructive power of the actual aircraft.

Forty aircraft types have been flown in Operation Iraqi Freedom. This includes 30 types of airplanes – fighters, troop transporters, aerial tankers, and reconnaissance planes, eight types of helicopters, and two kinds of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), one armed with missiles, the other with cameras.

Of the forty aircraft flown, toy model kits have been made of twenty-one. The prints are scaled in proportion to the actual aircraft: each image is 1/72 the size of the actual aircraft. The AV-8 Harrier, for example, is small enough that two could squeeze into the typical San Francisco house lot, while two B-52 Stratofortress bombers would overcrowd a football field. The AV-8 weighs 14,000 pounds: the B-52 carries five times that weight in bombs alone.

about play:

As a young boy I made model airplanes. With newly built model held aloft, I ran around my yard making noises as I banked and dipped the model through the air. As a child I never connected the war models to the actual planes, which strafed and bombed the “enemy.” Today I do.

Today I think about how models of warplanes socialize children and enlist their playtime. Today I think about how a conspiracy of interests hijacks children’s playtime and considers their minds fair prey. – William Laven, 2005

William Laven, a San Francisco-based artist and educator, earned a MFA in Photography from the San Francisco Art Institute, a MA in Education from Harvard University, and a BA in Journalism from Stanford University. He leads private workshops in photography and has taught at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, Oregon College of Arts and Crafts, the San Francisco Art Institute, and Colorado Springs School. He has shown his work at San Francisco Camerawork, Evergreen State College in Olympia, the Caap Street Project in San Francisco, the Works Gallery in San Jose, and was a visiting artist at the Coupeville Arts Center in Washington. In addition to teaching and photography, Laven has curated shows for the California Museum of Photography at UC Riverside and San Francisco Camerawork.