Arts and Entertainment

Fairbanks photographer portrays children wearing targets in call for gun safety

Kate Wool, a Fairbanks artist and gun-safety advocate, launched a provocative Instagram series this week featuring some of the nearly 100 portraits she made around Alaska of students and others wearing targets as a way to bring attention to the epidemic of school shootings.

She said she began posting in response to last week's school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, and will continue to post if other mass shootings occur.

"I posted those 10 (portraits) this weekend specifically for those 10 who died in Santa Fe," she said. "As time goes on, I hope I don't have to post any more."

Wool has been making portraits around Alaska since the March for Our Lives student protests in March. The child subjects were photographed with parental permission, she said. Sometimes their parents were photographed as well. Her larger body of work, "I am NOT a target: the spaces and places where children and guns intersect," is posted on her website.

The images, which were also shared on Facebook, have generated a wide array of responses, she said, including a dust-up on a Fairbanks community Facebook page that garnered hundreds of comments — a post administrators eventually removed.

"A lot of the people were very upset that the kids had targets on them," she said. "Which of course was the point."

Wool, a mother of two and wife of state Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, said she began making art to do with the "uncomfortable intersection" of children and guns five years ago, after a day when she was at the playground with her kids and encountered a couple of men there who were carrying guns openly.


"I didn't understand why they had to show that kind of thing on the playground," she said.

She's also alarmed by the number of gun accidents in Alaska involving children, she said.

Alaska has a high rate of gun ownership, and she stressed that she isn't advocating for gun control, but instead she wants more gun safety, such as encouraging people to lock up guns in homes with kids, encouraging parents to ask other parents if guns are secured before children come over to play, and a bill that stalled in the Legislature that would have allowed police to temporarily confiscate the guns of people who were likely to harm themselves or others.

February's mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead — most of them students — pushed her to begin her portrait series, she said.

"It makes me so upset," she said. "It all makes me so upset."

Julia O'Malley

Anchorage-based Julia O'Malley is a former ADN reporter, columnist and editor. She received a James Beard national food writing award in 2018, and a collection of her work, "The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska," was published in 2019. She's currently writer in residence at the Anchorage Museum.