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Brady Black 

Illustrative reportage / documentary sketching 
Beirut, Lebanon 

At our meeting at Kalei Coffee in Beirut, Brady Black admits that he is relatively new to what he calls “documentary sketching”. He had previously taken up street photography but found it inflexible: “With illustration I don’t have to wait at a spot to capture a specific moment. I can remove elements as I see fit.”

Coupled with the proliferation of photos found in the media these days, a hand-drawn image just hits a different note. It makes the viewer pause and catches their attention in a way photos rarely do anymore.

Brady’s art - reportage illustration - is closely tied to the 2019 October Revolution in Beirut. “As someone living in Lebanon when the Revolution happened, I wanted desperately to be a part of it, yet I knew it wasn’t mine. My previous work with an NGO helping children in Lebanon made me feel a great sense of attachment to the Revolution and its goals.”

He recounts how he went night after night to capture the details and events from the ground. While he often had to jostle with reporters and photographers for space, the result is his own unique drawings that show the Revolution through his eyes.

“Everything I draw is from me being there, in the thick of it.”

One of his favourite pieces from the Revolution is when he saw how two opposing neighbourhoods come together. After days of escalating violence, the mothers from these two old enemy neighbourhoods decided to march in solidarity, clutching white roses, candles and chanting that they were one nation. Brady described in vivid detail the shouts of celebration and how people threw rice from their balconies. This march was especially significant because it took place near the spot where the Civil War started in 1975. He was a witness to this momentous event, walking amongst the crowd and sketching.

“These are the things I bring with me when sketching: my pencils, paints and sketchbook. As well as a gas mask [during the Revolution] and whisky and cigarettes to get out of trouble.”

At our time of meeting, Brady spoke about learning to hone his storytelling through his sketches.  “If I want to learn how to tell a story, I should be able to tell stories at a riot and also of normal day-to-day things.”

With the current global coronavirus pandemic, he has begun interviewing and sketching the essential workers in Beirut who have had to continue working in the crisis while everyone else stays home. 

Follow Brady’s Instagram account as he sketches about life in Lebanon. 

Visited March 2020, published July 2020.

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