Reflection and Reportage Illustration with Olivier Kugler.

Yesterday I attended a talk with the reportage illustrator Olivier Kugler. Rather than illustrating an editorial piece to encompass the scale of, for example, a war-torn country, he would go and live among the people, get to know them, and tell the stories of individuals. He spoke about a time he went to live with a man and his family who had previously been involved in the mafia and was now known as a super grass. He couldn’t go out of the flat that often due to the risk of being assassinated and Kugler would feel queasy with beleaguerment when standing on his balcony with him. Kugler would play with the man’s sons and commented on how polite they were.

He spoke of the ethical side to his practice; with this man he agreed to not fully illustrate or include his family, with others he would ask their permission to illustrate, photograph, and tell their story. I asked a question to see how he would approach my research in an ethical way. Where {visual} documentation is absolutely key, how do you do this when you know people will not be willing to engage. Does this surpass ethics? I have found when people are speaking to me about my research area, they are (mostly) defensive and automatically against my enquiry as if I am criticising their parenting. I am not. I would like them to reflect on their own experience, see if they can remember when they became aware of what was expected of them because of their gender. Asking people if I can interview them or report what they are saying allows people to edit before speaking. This does not give a clear picture as many would believe they would never intentionally place expectations on others because of their gender. It is the snapshot reactions and statements that I am interested in. These paint a truer picture of what has been imprinted in a person and they would never agree to me visually reporting this once it has been pointed out. So where do I go from there if I can not do this ethically, but it is imperative to my claim? The illustrators did not have a clear answer or guide for me but agreed they worked on a level of trust. Perhaps they have never been in a position like this. Their works tell the story of an individual experience in order to connect with the world on a human level and although my purpose is just this, it is not seen this way. Possibly because people feel the finger of blame being pointed. It is more an awakening or an awareness I would like to conjure throughout society rather than blame. Sexism is ingrained in me also, I am guilty of finding myself thinking a garment is feminine when asked how I thought a male model looked. I also made sure I shaved my legs last night because I felt disgusting even though I was dead on my feet. Conversations have also shown women to be sexist towards me as comments are made about me not having children; therefore, I don’t know what (…) is like. It happens to be my own experiences growing up, current experiences, research, and observations, do not equate to that of parents’.

I am not sure how I am going to communicate what I am getting at, I don’t know what form this work is going to take, and I hope I haven’t bit off more than I can chew. This is something I feel wholeheartedly passionate about; everyone should be allowed to feel at ease in their own skin with no societal pressures. I would just like to make things easier even if it is for one person only.


Grayson on Masculinity.

Channel 4 Identity releases a very relevant interview with Grayson Perry. Although it is questionable in the way the person interviewing Perry suggested that men have something wrong with them, it raises some valid points. As do the comments to the broadcast themselves. It again questions the terror behind preserving [the ideal] masculininty. You may wonder why the people who are negatively and aggressively commenting on this man’s perspective of masculinity were watching interviews about the subject.

Grayson Perry on Masculinity, Channel 4 News, published 20 October 2016.


Manchester Science Festival 2016.

On Saturday I helped with a monoprinting workshop as part of Manchester Science Festival 2016. We used monoprinting to engage with young people and tell them about the Peppered Moth. It was a lovely experienced and helped me reflect on my own rigid approach to monoprinting and image making. It has been a long time since I practiced monoprinting and at first I was so uptight thinking of the outcome. I felt my images were stiff and lifeless. The children delivered loose and carefree images that automatically give them character and charm. This particular kind of image making was effective because it is so simple and quick it enabled the children to be prolific and kept them fully engaged. Some sat with us for at least half an hour without getting bored.

Around the pitch there were other science based activities including robot poetry, where a computer programme read back the children’s writing to them in a robot voice; a mini exhibition of images depicting what the children thought a scientist looked like; a circuit building workshop; and a range of interactive cards that became 3d when scanned through an image app. The day was a success with 134 children engaging with us about science through art. I will sign off with the poem written by scientist Sam Illingworth:

Arising from our ashen pit of toil,

As forge and mill did shape this unkempt land;

The blackness of the trees from coal and oil,

Contrasted with the skin nature had planned.

A single, fragile pearl encased in jet,

Your pallor marked you out for all to see;

In contrast to our progress, blood and sweat,

Your population had no industry.

And then from deep within you came a switch,

We came across your shadow in the sky;

Your alabaster pelt had turned to pitch,

Forced to adapt so that you would not die.

I wonder if we ever get it right,

Will you turn back from darkness into light?

Sam is a Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at MMU and a Poet.