Guaranteed to Look Twice: Powerful Photos of 2 Year Olds Smoking

Don’t view this as endorsement of kids smoking, tobacco or any of that shiznit. But these photos will make you look twice, guarenteed. Regardless of if it’s social, political or commercial, or otherwise, it’s very effective art. This is smart, powerful, horrible.

This photo series “The Beauty of an Ugly Addiction” is Photographer Frieke Janssens’ response to nicotine addiction and new smoking laws. She asks, “does this ban treat adults like children who can’t willfully decide whether or not to partake in this horribly harmful habit? What is it about smoking, aside from the obvious addictive content, that draws people in? Is it its image from film noir? Is it the appeal of its performative consumption, that mannerism or pose that seems to imbue a smoker with a particular sort of character?”

Can’t argue that you’ll stop and look. Tell me what you think in the comments. Then check out this sort of surreal behind the scenes video is here:

[via flavorpill, neatorama]

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Karina says:

Even if everyone can’t like it and may be shocked, you make them think and argue. And I think that’s what a real artist is suppose to do: “wake people up”, if you know what I mean..
For my personal point of view, these pictures are awesome and powerful with a real message, congrats!

awesome concept, awesome light, just awesome. btw, people need to chill. watch the bts video. they weren’t actually holding cigarettes.

Rani Violet NightFall says:

U need a life this is so desgusting u should not put these kids though this they r little if they die it is your fault

ashely star says:

you people are very SAD.

Rani Violet NightFall says:

so true

Anonymous says:

school no closed sunday mom

Jill Rosell says:

I pent a morning this week with my two kids picking up cigarette butts in our downtown streets. A great eye opener for anyone! What I learnt from the experience is many smokers think the environment is an ashtray. We picked up 100’s of butts….
Here is a photo that says it all.
Next time someone litters their butt speak up and tell them they are littering.

Shaleen says:

It was truly incredible to see the child smoking at the end of the video, which raises the question of what sane person would give an infant cigarettes?

Phil says:

This series of pictures initially sent thoughts of anti-smoking campaigns, however after reading some of the commments, it’s effectiveness would be similar to to those pictures depicting children and young adults dying in auto accidents due to drivers drinking alcohol…in-effective at best.
However, this series of photos combined with children drinking alcohol in similar poses, with a final display of images of teen vehicular accidents involving alcohol, could very well be an effective anti smoking, anti drinking and driving campaign…even more so if pakage of cigarette contents were strewn about the wreckage.
Being a retired cop and seeing the carnage up close and real over my 27 year career might make this post appear to be a bit over the top and slightly off topic, and a bit tainted, by introducing the alcohol scenario. Both smoking and driving and drinking are socially unacceptable in my view yet our society condones both, knowingly and seemingly accepting the economic and dangerous aspects of the status quo..YMMV.

Jaw-dropping photos… really does provoke you!

Scott says:

Morality, like art, means drawing a line someplace

John says:

Where do we draw the line? Whats next?

Jon says:

As with most things these days there is no argument that will win over a smoker to being a non-smoker or vice versa, particularly on the internet. People come to forums looking for validation, not to have their minds changed over issues.

The artist has said that this work was a response to a particular story (which I also remember seeing in the news a year or two ago?) about the poor child shown at the end of the vid, who clearly is not getting the best start in life. However, I imagine that the pictures are as likely to be effective in making adult smokers think about their habit as any other message and more likely be effective than simply laying out a logical argument.

Adult smokers know the risks they are taking / imposing but the way that tobacco companies have chosen to promote their products over the years has been almost entirely via visual images of “cool” – the Marlboro Man never came on TV to tell you that cigarettes were a good thing, he just rode around on his horse smoking and made you wish that you were there too. Alas, I think that these pictures are probably not going to attract the same global audience or have the effect that billions of dollars of cigarette advertising has had over the years, but I’m sure that this is a better way than most to get people thinking for themselves.

And they are nice pics.

Eric says:

I think the images look incredible. They are extremely well executed and I think they do work as stand alone images that express the view or message the photographer was attempting to express.
For ages and it still happens now, smoking has been glorified. People see it as something attractive and sexy. Yet nowadays everyone knows it’s wrong. You’re damaging your health and that of those around you when you smoke, and you know it. But don’t care. Maybe it takes seeing children glorified in the same way, to make you stop and realize how wrong it is. This was the message I got out of the images, on their own, without text telling me what to think.

theo says:

I think these photographs were well executed technically and the result is visually arresting. However, I do not find that these images portray Frieke’s inquiry effectively. I see children, dressed as adults from another era, posed with cigarettes or looking like they are smoking cigarettes. To me, Chase’s initial clarification statement, “don’t view this as endorsement of kids smoking, tobacco or any of that shiznit” shows that he was also concerned that viewers would leave with that conclusion as well.

In many cases, these photographs will be viewed on their own without any attached text. I feel that for an image to be successful in pushing forward an idea or questioning a statement it needs to have all of the necessary components within the frame. Adding text to these images would help them achieve that goal. Yes, doing so could be visually distracting. But are not these photographs meant to increase awareness on Frieke’s topic? Left as they are, I go away from seeing these pictures with the feeling that they are simply promoting kids to dress and act like adults. In this case that being to smoke, use tobacco and that kind of junk.

Mike Folden says:

Sometimes for me, a photo making you take a second look is enough. It’s interesting. It’s something you don’t normally see. The message I think is more to shock but I’m not sure what the call to action is. Maybe there isn’t one. Does there have to be? Sometimes a good image is just fun to look at. Well done.

stanchung says:

For those who don’t repulsed by seeing kids smoking then you must live in place where it’s normal to see such things. The message would be too subtle for you to understand.

If you don’t want kids to smoke then you should stop too because they will copy you like one commentator said- monkey see monkey do. I’ve experienced 1st hand being with a quitter at 55[my dad] and all the problems associated with it even after quitting.
It’s your life- take care of it and make yourself a role model for your children.

To the Friedke- congratulations on the powerful images. I’m lucky i choke on cigarettes, otherwise add me as another on a list of victims of big tobacco, insurance companies and profit oriented healthcare institutions.

Steve G says:

I love the concept and the images, powerful and provocative.

As far as the “message” if there is one, I’m inclined to believe this somehow is intended to use some shock value to leverage the anti-smoking campaign. I’m personally not on board with this because smoking is a choice. Yes, it’s a bad choice but add it to the list of the other bad choices people make that don’t receive the attention smoking gets. You could just as well have shown toddlers driving cars or having a martini.

Dan Oksnevad says:

Very powerful images. What a great series. Should be turned into an anti-smoking advertising campaign.

Dan Speicher says:

There was a documentary on Current TV not long ago about smoking, (“Sex, Lies & Cigarettes”) and they met the young boy from Indonesia; he has stopped smoking, and went through some pretty traumatic withdrawal, but the interesting part was that nearly 40% of the kids there smoke, and many buy cigarettes right outside of their school walls… While its crazy to think, the whole worlds doesnt view this as a bad thing…

Matthew Momberger says:

I wish I thought of this

Anonymous says:

I totally get it…thought provoking imagery. To me the message is ~ kids good n pure, smoking bad and unpure, coupled with the youths in the picture it’s just the right amount of wrong! Most importantly the photos have people talking and thinking and that’s a good thing!!

sarah hatfield says:

I totally get it…thought provoking imagery. To me the message is ~ kids good n pure, smoking bad and unpure, coupled with the youths in the picture it’s just the right amount of wrong! Most importantly the photos have people talking and thinking and that’s a good thing!

Emma G. says:

Hi Frieke, if you’re reading! Chase, thanks for posting!
As soon as my eyes set on the first image, my first impression was “woah – a child with a cigarette – two things that should never meet” (it’s good to know that this was done in post – very nicely too!) I’d seen the young boy who smokes on the news, felt awful. I think this work, for me, firstly brings my attention to underage smoking, and then I think why am I not shocked to see adults damaging their bodies in the same way? The images didn’t speak to me about the smoking ban at first, but it’s an interesting point to me as well. Smoking is an adult activity, it seems wrong to see children smoking, but why? Smoking is actually quite a sexual activity, it’s phallic, and people have always found it attractive. To see a child do this really makes me wonder what exactly is the most addicting part of smoking aside from the nicotine.

Marian Majik says:

I have no words … thanks for sharing

nanaxiu says:

the pictures are beautiful, aesthetically. but it saddens me to see children who smoke, especially the one in the video. :( poor kid. —-> the message of the photos.. very effective.

unreal. thanks for sharing.

Bluestill says:

I got this yesterday and they were two years old then. Tell them I said “happy birthday”. LOL. I don’t know, Perhaps these are photoshopped I am hoping, but if not it just shows more of the direction society is going in. I recall a young teenager and her young boyfriend (maybe 14 or 15) walking pass a location shoot I was doing and they were both smoking, they stopped to watch, and then the girl ask if I can take their pic together. I said sure and I will email it to you. Then the guy said to the girl “baby unbutton your shirt so your pregnant belly can be in the pic”. She was very much pregnant but didn’t really look it. I was appalled at that very moment because this baby was going to have the same choice that these kids have, or maybe this baby had the same choice as these kids; bad parenting. I told the young couple that I would only take the photo if they put the cigarettes out and thought about the baby’s health for the rest of its term inside the mother. They finally agreed after arguing about how they were hoping to blow smoke rings together. The model asked the girl what did her doctor say about her smoking and the girl replies she had never seen a doctor, that they were homeless, and that they didn’t even have an email address to send the photo to anyway, so they walked off. You. An’t even imagine how this left me feeling on that day. It’s no different lookin at this.

angel pope says:

My first reaction….I felt like I was stuck in a room with the smoke. Felt like I couldn’t breathe. I don’t really care about people smoking unless I’m forced to suck in the air of smoke with my lungs. Made me anxious to even look at the photos.

Jeremy says:

I’m not so sure it needs to have a “message” to be an interesting set of images. And I don’t hear the artist placing some sort of contrived, pretentious message on these… I think they are what they are. A well-executed set of images that we wouldn’t expect to see.

I think they’re beautiful. Well-lit. Nice atmosphere, amusing poses. It’s nice to just take something for what it is once in a while. Not like it’s an editorial piece.

We’re also so saturated with shocking imagery these days, that these may have little impact for most. But that doesn’t make them pointless.

Great comment Jeremy. I think so many other commenters on here are so “literal” that they just can’t stop and see it beyond an explanation or need that message. It’s not necessary. These are great photos and like you said…they are what they are.


It at first made me think of kids who were stuck with parents who smoke and take away their ability to decide. Then I read how they thought smoking bans took away the rights of the adult to decide if they want to willing smoke and endanger their well being. I’d agree with that if it wasn’t for the fact that there are a large number of individuals each year, that develop lung cancer or similar from smoking that rely on the tax payer dollar to get medical treatment. Yes the photos are powerful as a tool that shows why kids shouldn’t smoke. But for what they were intended for – they way missed the mark.

Gail Mooney says:

Shallow and self serving. Neither here no there.

mark nelson says:

The photography and the artistic vision in these photos is fantastic.
It seems noone interprets these images in the same way.
This intrigue is a good portion of what it is that makes these shots fantastic.

Bluestill says:

Take away the “habit” and you’re right, the pictures are beautifully done. But would you have taken the photo if they were standing in front of your camera doing it? Sort of remind me of when you see the street performer with the monkey and he hands the monkey a cigarette. Monkey see, monkey do, and it should be conceived as cute regardless of the risk involved.

Mark D. says:

Does not speak to me other than to say kids should not smoke. Seems to me there is a better way for her to get her point across.

Jen says:

Those are not 2 year olds… a 2-year-old would never stand the way you want them to!

DanielKphoto says:

Crazy shit dawg.. No but seriously, it does really make you look twice and I think this is what hits people and make them think about these issues.

Tim Roper says:

It looks more like a second hand smoke statement to me, or a statement about how childish adults are trying to use smoking to look sophisticated, or even a statement about how children mimic adults, bad habits and all.

Ron says:

Like others here, I’m not sure what the message is in these photos. They are arresting, to be sure, but is shock the only desired effect? Do they promote childhood smoking, do they repudiate it, or are they attempting to take what is obviously a real problem in some countries and make an artistic rendition of it? They’re clever, to be sure, but I guess I’m struggling to see the point/the message.

Costas says:

If that is the case, I am still confused. We say “please stop treating us like kids, we are grown adults and we want to decide ourselves if we want to smoke or not”.

In effect, we say “let us smoke if we want to”, and we show little kids smoking? Still doesn’t make sense to me-but this is only my personal opinion, I am not saying that it is wrong or whatever-I just don’t seem to get it.

Costas says:

If that is the case,

Costasc says:

Sorry, can’t get the message. Every child in the world likes to dress up and act as a grown-up, so these children had this fantasy photographed professionally. Can’t see something deeper. Maybe I’m not getting it, maybe there is a big picture along with an exhibition or event, I don’t know. I don’t mean to be critical or disrespectful, I am just being honest: I can’t see the message in this.

I think the message Costasc is not about the kids so much but about grown adults being told they can not make thier own descision on wether or not they smoke due to new laws to ban smoking, as in they are being treated like children.

axv says:

I think people should be treated like children and with laws, in whatever country it is is fine. They are not children? Then what happens when they get sick because of smoking? Yes they want daddy government to treat them. So you need either a law for this of smokers signing an agreement in which they will not get any sort of government/tax funded health care on treatments related but not limited to smoking.

Jakob says:

Why tho old look? I find the shots quite harmless and not too thought provoking (the last 5 sec. in the movie however is interesting)

Frieke Janssens says:

Hi, I’m the photographer :-)
The kids are between 4 and 9 year old. Is was inspired by the Indonesian boy of two years old who smoked 40 cigarettes a days. No real cigarette was uses on the set, I used chalk sticks, incense, candles, gruyère cheese in paper, …

Lee says:

Frieke, very well done and I personally love images of juxtaposition. Taking these two unrelated subjects and putting them together with great styling was a terrific idea.

Now days everyone is brainwashed to hate this industry or that industry (tobacco, oil, banking, etc) but if you remove what ever personal bias you have, the images stand on their own. Of course the will no doubt be controversy which generates buzz. :)

Nice job

Kruter says:

Beautiful pictures. Perhaps it is spelled differently in another language but in English the video should read “Making Of” with only one f. Or perhaps I’m missing something…

Andy says:

Dunno how it’s going to help the kid at the end of the vid, but really good photos. Evokes a response; hopefully she can get a response from the right people with these.

Hunter says:

The kids used for the actual shoot may not be 2 years of age but those at the end of the video seemed very close. This is good and something I watched three times.

Zeppo says:

They are older than 2 years old

I think you’ll get a whole bunch of politically correct ranting abut the evils of smoking but not much else.
Personally I’m not sure what the message is meant to be. Seeing kids posed like smoking adults just looks out of place. Out of place is good at getting attention but what is the message?

Mauri says:

The message is something simple: the smoker today is like the child who has been scolded by their parent to not to do something in public.

It doesn’t requires much thought the message is pretty evident.

And before anyone jumps, the children aren’t smoking, that is incense.

Ed Hamlin says:

My first reaction to this was less than favorable, yet after watching the BTSV, if she can show the … flawed thinking behind those who chose to smoke or even let their children smoke kudos. Yet I think the reality will not prevail over an industry that has invaded the world like the black plague did in Europe.

Cody Min says:

These images are incredible. I think I had seen them earlier today, but I didn’t stop to view them. I’m glad you re-posted them. I think the surreal and disturbing look adds so much more interest and pathos. Thanks for the post.

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