Key words from the brief:
- Choose a piece of reportage or documentary illustration from one of the illustrators on the list [from the research exercise 3.2 Reporting & documenting]
- Compare the image to a photograph of a similar subject matter
- Answer a number of questions
A comparison of images
The two images I chose to compare are both of climate change protest marches.
What is each image expressing, describing or communicating?
Both images are describing climate change protests with very large crowds of people peacefully marching, banners and flags containing slogans and messages held high. The marchers in both images seem good natured.
The marches are taking place in cities in the summer or autumn; leaves are out on trees and people are dressed in tee shirts.
The photograph is more location specific with the Houses of Parliament in the background and a number of placards contain London references. The illustration is less specific and could be in any English speaking city.
The photograph is making more of a political statement. UNISON (the public sector union), flags are being waved and one of the placards references the economy. The Houses of Parliament in the background adds to a ‘political’ reading of the picture.
The pictures are saying: ‘there are a very large number of people from different backgrounds and beliefs concerned about the effects of climate changes and willing and motivated enough to join together in a large public act of protest’.
Which image do you think is most memorable?
The illustration is the more memorable image. This is for a number of reasons:
The illustration has a stronger visual hierarchy and is structured so that the viewer reads the image from front to back. The point of view is contrived to give the best composition.
The nine people in the foreground are all slightly charicatured and the viewer can draw conclusions about them and their interactions. This creates an engaging narrative.
These figures are holding evenly spaced placards with legible and easy to understand messages. The circular placard held by the smiling lady in the middle gives visual focus right at the centre of the image.
The mid ground only consists of a couple of faces and is really a visual stepping stone to take the viewer to the seething mass of people in the background. This crowd is treated as a single mass rather than as individuals.
Unlike the photograph, where the photographer has much less control over the composition of the image, the people in the foreground of the illustration are all carefully chosen to be of different ages, backgrounds and ethnicity giving the impression that climate change is a subject that is of general concern for everybody. It could also point to the location being a cosmopolitan multicultural city.
Does one image seem more truthful and why?
If by truthful we mean which image most objectively describes what was in front of the photographer or artist at that moment in time, then the photograph is more truthful.
The illustration provides an idealised and sanitised view of the march. The illustrator probably created the finished artwork from an amalgam of sketches and studies made on location and distilled in the studio. This process of making choices, drawing and redrawing probably took several hours. So the truth conveyed by the illustration is more nuanced and subjective.
Which image would you be more likely to notice if it was in a magazine or newspaper and why?
I would be more likely to notice the illustration.
There is simple reason for this. We live at a time where photographs are all pervasive and everywhere. We all have iPhones and share pictures digitally through our social media channels all the time.
This is a generalisation, but I believe that this means we have learned to skim read and dismiss photographs unless they are particularly impactful (advertising would be a good example). The evidence for this is how we are trained to emotionally switch off when we’re presented with a constant stream of tragic news stories every time we check our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feeds. So a viewer is likely to notice an illustration just because it’s a different form of image.
Additionally, reportage illustrations are more subjective and (assuming they are good), have a stronger more focused message that is more engaging and satisfying for the viewer.