News the slow way

*This blog post is part of the Jean Monnet Chair of European Media Governance and Integration series


By Isa Lange*

How can we deal with the mass of images in our daily life and the boundless access to news worldwide? We could focus on things of importance – whether in world politics or everyday circumstances – rather than jumping through the news in our timeline, only scratching the surface. We should grant the pictures and stories the time they need and bring a bit of calm and concentration in this thunderstorm of information.

Just visit your timeline – so many pictures. Each one gets just brief attention. It is a deal with time, with speed, every day anew. It’s a dilemma, you can’t cover everything.

It is necessary to slow down and concentrate. Because the respective news items deserve this attention.

My way to focus  is to draw. When drawing, time passes slowly:


Trump during his first presidential actions

01_Washington_Trump in Oval Office_Foto Jim Watson afp_Skizze Isa Lange
Illustration based on a photo by Jim Watson

The work begins: Donald Trump on the day of his swearing in as the 45th US President in January 2017 at his desk at the Oval Office in the White House. Left, next to him, Vice President Mike Pence. Here, Trump signs the necessary documents for the swearing-in of Home Secretary John Kelly.


Obama in Hiroshima

02_Obama in Hiroshima_Film Ina Ruck ARD tagesschau_Skizze Isa Lange
Illustration based on a film by Ina Ruck (ARD Tagesthemen, 27.05.2016)

Barack Obama embraces Shigeaki Mori – a survivor of the nuclear bombing – in Hiroshima. As a child, Mori survived the atomic explosion on 6 August 1945. After the war, he became a historian and worked on aspects of the past. Obama was the first serving US president to visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima. .


Horse library in Indonesia

03_horse library in Indonesia_Film Philipp Abresch ARD WELTSPIEGEL_Skizze Isa Lange-WITHOUT LINES
Illustration based on a film by Philipp Abresch (ARD Weltspiegel, 06.12.2015)

Cartoons, Lyrics, Fairy Tales – Ridwan Sururi and his horse Luna are bringing books to remote villages. “The books are helping me to get out of my little world. I hope the children enjoy the literature,” says Ridwan Sururi.


Keeping together in great distress

04_Surman Libyen refugees from Nigeria_Foto Daniel Etter_Skizze Isa Lange
Illustration for ‘RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland’ based on a photo by Daniel Etter

A woman from Nigeria is giving comfort to another woman in a detention center in Surman, Libya. “The absolute helplessness – the uncertainty about when they will be released – is written in the faces of the women. They wanted to go to Italy via the Mediterranean, but on the way to the coast they were arrested and imprisoned by a militia,” says photojournalist Daniel Etter. A smugglers’ network is sending people from Libya across the Mediterranean to Europe. Etter is documenting the consequences of these structures.


Rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea:

05_Mediterranean Sea_woman_Foto Aris Messinis afp_Skizze Isa Lange
Illustration for ‘Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland’ based on a photo by Aris Messinis / afp

A woman faints during a rescue operation off the Libyan coast on 4th of October 2016. Smuggling operators care little about whether their clients survive. Hundreds of people from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria and other sub-Saharan countries were crammed into wooden vessels to take them to Italy. Survivors had to climb over lifeless corpses on the floorboards. The photojournalist Aris Messinis says he has seen a lot of death and suffering, but this was like nothing he had ever seen before. “These people were in panic. I want to show people what is happening in the world. The world isn’t full of love and flowers. We need to know about the human suffering so we don’t close our eyes to reality. As a photojournalist I’m not choosing what I’ll send and publish. I shoot everything that is news no matter if I agree or not. I’m always trying to be in the middle and be as objective as I can.”


“Everything we  built up is lost”

06_Six years after Fukushima_Hiroshi and Fumiko Kanno_Film Uwe Schwering ARD Weltspiegel_Skizze Isa Lange
Illustration for ‘Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland’ based on a film by Uwe Schwering (ARD Weltspiegel, 05.03.2017)

Six years after Fukushima, a painful loss of home. Hiroshi Kanno and his wife Fumiko remember times with intact nature, family and neighbours. The 68-year-old lived in Iitate, 40 km from the nuclear power station, until the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe. It was the worst recorded since the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. Now the Kannos live in a new house financed by compensation, but they do not feel at home. “Everything we built up day by day is lost. All neighbours: away,” says Fumiko Kanno.


Refugees at a train station in Budapest:

07_trainstation Budapest-Keleti_Foto Peter Zschunke DPA_Skizze Isa Lange-WITHOUT LINES
Illustration based on a photo by Peter Zschunke

Budapest-Keleti on 10th of September 2015: “The mother with two children has been waiting for hours on their long journey, in search of security,” says the journalist Peter Zschunke (dpa). The picture shows “the suffering of the refugees and the indifference of passers-by who swiftly climb up a stairway at the end of their working day.”


Boston Airport was the site of many family reunions – laughing, kissing, crying

08_USA Boston Airport_Foto Evan Allen-The Boston Globe_Skizze Isa Lange
Illustration for ‘Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland’ based on a photo by Evan Allen / The Boston Globe

Arrival on Lufthansa flight 422 from Frankfurt, Germany: Akram Khajehali (left) was greeted by her granddaughter Zeynab, 4, after arriving at Boston Logan Airport on 4th February 2017. She had tried three times to fly into the country; she is an Iranian with an American visa. She found herself suddenly barred from entering the United States after President Donald Trump signed an executive order.


What and why do I draw?

I draw news, documenting media images in pencil-illustrations. I work together with photojournalists and journalists, e.g. in Athens, Washington, Nairobi, Istanbul, Manila, Berlin, Boston. Every week I draw one picture with a 3B-pencil and a paper, lines on lines on lines, then digitize the illustration. The drawings are black and white, not as bright and colourful as the everyday news pictures.

Why do I draw news? I try to keep incidents from getting lost. My aim is to pause, to stumble, to focus and concentrate on one news item and the story behind it. I draw what I see in the original image, just documenting one-to-one. Through the drawings one should be able to deal with the respective news items for a longer time or to find access to the topic for the first time.

According to the news illustrator Richard Johnson a drawing can “transport someone” who was never there to the moment mirrored by the news. “We draw so that we can capture and preserve a memory. We have been doing that for thousands of years,” Johnson says (“Why we draw”, Washington Post, December 2014).

Images are not only fluffy, pretty and entertaining (as the bulk of “selfies” around us), but often political in an outspoken way. Images can trigger a much stronger emotion, says Elmar Theveßen, Deputy Editor-in-Chief and Head of News at ZDF German Television (DIE ZEIT, July 2015). “Our job is to depict reality. So we need to think about what images we show.”

In the documentation-project I am working together with photojournalists and journalists to find out where, why and when the picture was taken. I check the origin and do not use images from an unknown source, because there are so many images buzzing around the world wide web. In particular – the broader story of the pixel world is one of digitization: information, whether text, video or images, spreads so fast. You can carry the world in your smartphone.

With the drawings, I would like to draw attention to the important work of photojournalists and journalists; they are the eyes on site, witnesses of the incidents. It all depends on the source.

*Isa Lange, born in Hanover in 1985, draws the news. Pretty oldschool: with a sheet of paper and a 3B pencil she creates a documentary illustration. The series “drawing news” is printed every week in German newspapers through the weekend journal “Sonntag”, from Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland. Since 2010 she has been press spokeswoman of the University of Hildesheim, writing reports and interviews about how we live and learn together in migration societies.

Project “documenting media images” (#docuimage)

Every week I add new pictures. You can find some illustrations on Twitter (@stadtmaulwurf).

What image should I draw next? You are invited to send a picture suggestion.

Please follow me via Twitter: @stadtmaulwurf

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