While photojournalists snap pictures, Beirut-based American visual journalist Brady Black is illustrating Lebanon’s events and stories as they unfold before his eyes.
Taking to the streets during the Lebanese Revolution, Brady would stand alongside the photojournalists with his pencil and paper in hand. “They thought I was quite crazy, ” he chuckled as he explained to The961 what reportage illustration is.
“It’s a slow version of photojournalism. It captures different kinds of things… It captures more emotions.” Brady said it was like returning to an older form of journalism.
“We’ve all seen a million pictures that accurately depict a thing, but we can grow numb to seeing those images. So having them drawn is a way to make them come across a little different and you can catch a lot more of the emotion behind it,” he said, remembering people’s reactions to his documentary illustrations that were displayed in his Beirut 365 gallery.
“I had multiple people crying while they were looking at them,” he told us, “You can capture the emotion and there are more feelings involved (in the illustrations). I would put quotes in there. Some of them were dirty, I had a boot print on one of them from when a police officer knocked it out of my hands and threatened me.”
Immersing oneself in covering protests, marches, and the harrowing Beirut blast can be mentally exhausting. But to Brady, the stories of the people are more important. “It feels very important to me to be there and experience it as they are experiencing it and to try to tell that story for them.”
Of the things that most affected Brady mentally was the Lebanese Revolution; how violent the protests got and all the injustice he saw. He got tear-gassed and shot at like everyone else. He even saw people bleeding out in front of him.
His experience gave him a deeper understanding of why people were rioting, and even why they did things like throwing rocks and setting things on fire. It steeled his resolve to continue what he is doing, he said.
Brady came to Lebanon almost 7 years ago and founded a school for abused and abandoned children, Home For Hope. Today, because of the pandemic and economic collapse in Lebanon, the school has had to close.
But instead of going back home to the United States, he and his wife have remained in Lebanon. This is mostly due to the fact that they are fighting the courts in Lebanon to get paperwork for their son who they are trying to legally adopt.
With the strange predicament of being an American stuck in Lebanon like most Lebanese, Brady is experiencing firsthand the dire situation, prompting him to dedicate his time and skills to do good and serve the local people through art.
“I’ve been focused on trying to amplify the messages and voices of people that I’m around,” he said.
“A lot of the suffering, the pain, and challenge choices, such as to leave or to not leave, are the subject of my work now.” He is also focused on combating food insecurity in Lebanon and has a keenness of working closely with street kids in Beirut.