Drawing America’s Invisible Poor, Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco

Drawing of derelict and abandoned  factories

I found this interesting interview with the journalist Chris Hedges about his recent collaboration with the artist/ journalist Joe Sacco, in their book ‘Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt’. In it the pair make visible the unseen people and ignored corners of America.

Drawn reportage is often overlooked, and reportage in the form of a graphic novel is easy to dismiss in favour of a photographic or written account of the same event; but in this interview Chris Hedges highlights the advantages of this graphic approach over more traditional forms of reportage. I hope you enjoy it.


Is Drawing Journalism?

Black and white Photograph of a man floating on his back in a swimming pool.

Sometimes when I look at my drawings it is hard to see an obvious journalistic or news angle to them. After all, images tell stories in such a completely different way to a written article. But I saw this amazing photograph by Karoly Escher at the Royal Academy exhibition Eyewitness: Hungarian photography in the 20th Century. Now I have a postcard of it on my studio wall to remind me of the unique, and multi-layered way that narrative comes from images, and of what I am trying to do with my drawings.

The title of this photo is The Bank Manager at the Baths, 1938. When you look at the image with this title you get one impression: of a well-fed, slightly smug, successful man enjoying some not too strenuous leisure time.

But when you look at it with the additional information: that after the First World War and the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, Hungary lost nearly three quarters of its territory. Tens of thousands of ethnic Hungarians found themselves resident in ‘foreign lands’, and moving into what was left of their country resulted in overcrowding, unemployment, poverty and political unrest. Over the next few decades their government became increasingly fascist and anti-Semitic and the Great Depression of 1930s can only have added to the struggle for survival of the workingman. Knowing this it is hard to view the corpulent bank manager in quite the same benign way.