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. And there he was - a witness to this momentous event, walking amongst the crowd and quickly sketching it all down.

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

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 of 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.

Brady Black

Visited March 2020, published July 2020.