This is What Tech-Obssessed Kids Would Look Like in the 17th Century

Mar 19, 2014 at 10:03 AM ET

If the stats surrounding technology’s overwhelming influence on American children are any indication of what’s to come for Generation Z (or post-millennials?), then life looks bleak for the toddlers of 2014. Some 64 percent of 1-year-olds avidly watch TV each day, and 40 percent of young children use iPads before they begin speak. Adding insult to injury, teens send an average 3,339 texts per month. These numbers have parents worried that the online world will, according to Today, “rob kids of their social skills.”

Kids’ obsession with technology—and ultimate isolation because of it—is what Colombian photographer Adriana Duque tries to capture in her series Icons, which is currently on display in Sao Paolo’s Zipper Gallery until April 12. “Children confront us with an attitude of adults,” Duque tells Vocativ. “Through new technologies, children today increasingly live in a remote area of reality. They’re looking to escape family and situational experiences, perhaps longing for the comfort and infinite nuances of emotion in the virtual world.”

In her photographs, Duque captures doll-like young girls dressed in intricate costumes that seem to come straight out of Dutch baroque paintings (think Jan Van Eyck and Hans Memling). The girls, between the ages of 5 and 7, pose serenely—their smooth, pale faces staring straight into the camera. “It’s about the inexorable search for an ideal beauty,” Duque says of the collection.

There’s a reason, the artist says, that she chose to photograph children. “Children represent a conglomerate of ideas and emotions that remains uncultivated,” she says. “Their contact with reality and the adult world is defined by sometimes-limitless fantasy.”

In the images, the girls—or princesses, as Duque calls them—wear ornate crowns that conveniently look like headphones, channeling an “absolutely contemporary attitude” into the anachronistic settings. The headphones, she says, add to the “mental and emotional isolation” the children experience in their everyday lives. Duque also Photoshopped the girls’ eyes to give them an in-the-moment intensity.

Show curator Edor Chiodetto, responding to the project, puts the artist’s work thusly: “Duque is conducting a project in which photography is umbilically connected to the history of painting.”