[ #ReFi58 Joe Sacco ]

0 Posted by - November 5, 2014 - Tracks

JoeSacco-Gorazde

Joe Sacco, from his book JOURNALISM: “There will always exist, when presenting journalism in the comics form, a tension between those things that can be verified, like a quote caught on tape, and those things that defy verification, such as a drawing purporting to represent a specific episode. Drawings are interpretive even when they are slavish renditions of photographs, which are generally perceived to capture a real moment literally. But there is nothing literal about a drawing. A cartoonist assembles elements deliberately and places them with intent on a page. There is none of the photographer’s luck at snapping a picture at precisely the right moment. A cartoonist “snaps” his drawing at any moment he or she chooses. It is this choosing that makes cartooning an inherently subjective medium.

This does not let the cartoonist who aspires to journalism off the hook. The journalist’s standard obligations—to report accurately, to get quotes right, and to check claims—still pertain. But a comics journalist has obligations that go deeper than that. A writer can breezily describe a convoy of UN vehicles as “a convoy of UN vehicles” and move on to the rest of the story. A comics journalist must draw a convoy of vehicles, and that raises a lot of questions. So, what do these vehicles look like? What do the uniforms of the UN personnel look like? What does the road look like? And what about the surrounding hills?

Fortunately, there is no stylebook to tell the comics journalist how far he or she must go to get such details right. The cartoonist draws with the essential truth in mind, not the literal truth, and that allows for a wide variety of interpretations to accommodate a wide variety of drawing styles. No two cartoonists are going to draw a UN truck exactly the same way even if working from the same reference material.

Here I can only lay out my own standards as far as pictorial veracity is concerned. I try to draw people and objects as accurately as possible whenever possible. To my mind, anything that can be drawn accurately should be drawn accurately—by which I mean a drawn thing must be easily recognizable as the real thing it is meant to represent. However, there are drawings—particularly in scenes that take place in the past that I did not see myself—for which I must necessarily use my imagination, or, rather, my informed imagination. By this I mean that whatever I draw must have grounding in the specifics of the time, place, and situation I am trying to re-create. In film terms, a cartoonist is a set designer, a costume designer, and a casting director, and to successfully carry out those roles probably requires research in books, archives, and on the Internet. When relying on eyewitness testimony, I ask pertinent visual questions: How many people were there? Where was the barbed wire? Were the people sitting or standing? At the minimum I want to orient readers to a particular moment, but my goal is to satisfy an eyewitness that my drawn depiction essentially represents his or her experience.

But, as I have implied, this can hardly be a perfect undertaking. Ultimately, a drawing reflects the vision of the individual cartoonist. I do not think this exiles a drawn report from the realm of journalism. I think it is possible to strive for accuracy within a drawn work’s subjective framework. In other words, facts (a truck carrying prisoners came down the road) and subjectivity (how that scene is drawn) are not mutually exclusive. I, for one, embrace the implications of subjective reporting and prefer to highlight them. Since it is difficult (though not impossible) to draw myself out of a story, I usually don’t try. The effect, journalistically speaking, is liberating. Since I am a “character” in my own work, I give myself journalistic permission to show my interactions with those I meet. Much can be learned about people from these personal exchanges, which most mainstream newspaper reporters, alas, excise from their articles. (The stories journalists tell around a dinner table, which generally involve similar interactions, are often more interesting and revealing than what gets into their copy.) Despite the impression they might try to give, journalists are not flies on the wall that are neither seen nor heard. In the field, when reporting, a journalist’s presence is almost always felt. Young men shake their guns in the air when a camera crew starts filming, and they police each other when a reporter starts asking probing questions. By admitting that I am present at the scene, I mean to signal to the reader that journalism is a process with seams and imperfections practiced by a human being—it is not a cold science carried out behind Plexiglas by a robot.

JoeSacco-Palestine

Joe Sacco with Jotdown:
«Yo entiendo el periodismo como el primer escalón de la historia»

¿Quién está antes, el dibujante de cómics o el periodista?

Yo me llamaría a mí mismo un dibujante que hace periodismo. Cuando me encuentro sobre el terreno, trabajando para un libro, mi comportamiento, mi manera de actuar es la misma que la de cualquier otro periodista. Entrevisto a gente, me interesan sus historias, apenas dibujo. Si tú llegaras a alguno de los sitios de los que hablo en mis libros probablemente te comportarías de la misma forma. Con la excepción de que a veces mis preguntas son más visuales, es decir, yo tengo que dibujar algo por lo que constantemente estoy preguntando por detalles de naturaleza visual.

En algunas entrevistas te definen como el «precursor de una nueva manera de enfocar el reporterismo». No sé tú, pero yo tengo problemas con ese retrato.

En un nivel muy básico, cuando yo comencé no había muchas personas que hicieran periodismo a través del cómic, ni siquiera que hicieran cómics que pudiesen ser considerados serios, los había habido pero no en aquel momento. Estaba por supuesto Art Spiegelman y su Maus que ya había ganado un Pulitzer, pero seguía siendo una cosa minoritaria. Cuando comencé con Palestina respondía, supongo, a muchas preguntas semejantes a las que Spiegelman habría tenido que responder en su día, del tipo: «Oh, estás hablando del conflicto palestino en un cómic, ¿en serio?». Por eso mi respuesta siempre era la misma: «Mira lo que Spiegelman hizo con Maus».

¿Spiegelman y su Maus lo cambiaron todo?

Y más aún, sirvió para que muchos pudiéramos dar por zanjadas este tipo de preguntas acerca de nuestras obras. En cualquier caso antes había muchas barreras, muchas de las cuales hoy han caído. Me he encontrado con gente que admiraba diciéndome a la cara que no consideraban serio mi trabajo. Por supuesto también al contrario, supongo que es un asunto, el de este tipo de cómics, que es todavía objeto de debate. Sin embargo sí es cierto que ya había una tradición, hay que mirar por ejemplo la serie de Los desastres de la guerra de Goya mismo, o revistas como The London Illustrated News, Harper’s Magazine. Ya desde mediados del siglo XIX estaban enviando a artistas con los ejércitos para que pudieran dejar testimonio mediante sus dibujos de lo que estaba pasando en los frentes de guerra. Para ser honesto, no soy historiador ni conozco mucho sobre este tema pero creo que todo lo que yo he hecho, especialmente en mis comienzos, nunca fue el resultado de una teoría previa. Yo empecé por supuesto dibujando cómics autobiográficos y de repente pasé a dibujar mis propias experiencias en determinadas situaciones ya fueran Oriente Próximo o los Balcanes. Estudié Periodismo, quise ser periodista pero no funcionó… Pero cuando alguien me considera pionero o precursor de algo «nuevo», bueno, es agradable oírlo pero es algo que simplemente pasó. Hubo gente que ya hizo esto antes que yo. Por ejemplo ahora está Chris Ware, él está haciendo algo que será muy difícil de ser imitado, influirá mucho pero una obra como Fabricar historias (Reservoir Books Mondarori, 2014) será un nuevo hito en la historia del cómic.

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