Comprehensively communicating and discussing political and social issues and creating engagement – definitely not an easy undertaking these days. After all, we’re living in times of often intransparent mass media and an increasingly, or at least so perceived, complex society.
New forms of communication and methods of engagement are required. Our international comic competition “Animate Europe”, currently running in its third round, is one attempt to do just that. It is one examples, how graphic arts and the often neglected comic scene in particular, can be a valuable approach to discussing and presenting social and political issues.
What is “Drawing the Times” and how did you come up with the idea?
Drawing the Times is a platform for Graphic Journalism. I came up with the idea when I was making comics reportages myself. I thought it would be nice if there was a newspaper in which all the articles were drawn, in comics, cartoons, or live-drawings. So I applied for subsidies at two cultural foundations in the Netherlands, and they awarded me the money to have a website designed and built. A print newspaper would be unrealistic because of the costs, on the internet you have worldwide access and it is relatively cheap.
What kind of stories are you looking for? How do you select them and what are your criteria?
We are looking for informative stories that give new insights in current topics. They can be personal and autobiographical, but they have to be non-fiction. They can be reportages, comics, cartoons, animations, hand drawn infographics. As long as they are drawn and non-fictional, any story could do. It should have a certain professional level, though.
Why did you decide to tell societal and political stories visually? And why drawing specifically?
I think drawings have two specific qualities: Drawn articles are personal because of the handwriting of the maker, so they engage the reader. The other one is the informative quality of the image: one image is worth a thousand words.
Do you think there is a general problem with how people read and perceive news these days? Or maybe the other way round: is the way how news are presented to the people problematic?
I don’t know whether we should call it problematic, there are so many different ways news are presented. There is an overload of news, a constant flow of news on social media. I am a bit concerned about the news on social media. Did Facebook influence the presidential elections, for example? Therefore: drawing is a very honest way of telling a story. You can show information from a different point of view. Graphic Journalism is a slow medium, the journalist takes a lot of time to investigate the subject. I believe it is a relief to read those kind of stories, along all the breaking news.
Do you have specific future plans for the project? How would you like it to move forward?
It would be wonderful if graphic journalism becomes a generally accepted form of journalism. I think newspapers and magazines should use graphic journalism to engage readers in subjects they would skip otherwise because they think it is boring or too complex for them. Right now we are not only publishing articles, but we also give lectures, do workshops and teach how to make comics and use drawing as a language, which I think is very important nowadays.
Eva Hilhorst is a graphic journalist living in Amsterdam. She enjoys turning complex information into clear drawn explanations with a human story. She is editor-in-chief of Drawing the Times, an international platform for graphic journalism.
Interview by Anna Reineke