Katie Pedersen and Christina Romualdo
Students and community members gathered at the Humber Lakeshore campus Tuesday to see photojournalist Marc Ellison talk about his latest project.
In an event held in partnership with the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada, Ellison gave attendees a sneak peek into his upcoming online graphic novel, which showcases the stories of women abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.
Ellison used his background in IT and specialization in data journalism to enhance this project, incorporating video, sound and editorialized images to increase interactivity. The project has the air of a digital comic strip, with cartoons often superimposed over photographs.
“I wanted to try and initiate a virtual conversation with you, the reader,” Ellison said.
His project is an example of comic journalism, a burgeoning field that uses graphic novels and cartoons to tell journalistic stories.
Ellison said that using cartoons helps illustrate the stories that his subjects are recounting from their past. It can also be used to conceal an anonymous source’s identity in a more engaging way.
“It’s combining the other-worldly and the real world,” he said. “It’s showing people, ‘I was there, I spoke to these people.’ Unfortunately I wasn’t there at the time of the war, but this is what it would have looked like.”
Maclean’s journalist Nick Taylor-Vaisey said this type of journalism is a great new way to engage untapped audiences. “I think it is incredibly valuable as a way to bring in new readers, audiences you wouldn’t otherwise attract, to a given publication,” he said.
Taylor-Vaisey is more familiar with the field than most, having seen its impact at his current publication. “Here at Maclean’s, during the Mike Duffy trial, we enlisted a freelancer who wrote everyday from the trial, but he also worked as a freelance cartoonist. And he created an ongoing comic titled, ‘Trial of the Century’ and did nine or ten weeks of a graphic novelling of the Duffy trial.”
“Personally, I think it’s a great experiment to bring in younger viewers or readers who are more inclined to read graphic novels,” said Taylor-Vaisey.
Ellison’s next project is in Tanzania, where he will be featuring child brides as part of his Fellowship for International Development Reporting, which is funded by the Aga Khan Foundation.