It is important to introduce a brief history of the relationship between politics and illustration. Even without the aid of modern technology and widespread social media images were still able to reach a wide audience. Illustrations or images created for one purpose can sometimes transcend their original intentions. Images can become so iconic that they lose their original purpose which is most famously the case for Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s portrait. Che Guevara was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary who was a major figure of the Cuban Revolution. A photograph of him by Alberto Korda (Fig 1) became an iconic image of the 20th century, his stylized visage that has become an anti-establishment symbol of rebellion in popular culture, and now ironically commercialised worldwide. Originally the photograph was intended to be used alongside an article promoting the triumphs of the Cuban revolution but after many years and a lack of copy rights it landed in the hands of Jim Fitzpatrick who in 1968 painted the infamous two-tone portrait (Fig 2).
Since this versions of it has been repainted, printed, digitalised, tattooed, sketched and graffitied onto any surface imaginable, The Painting being featured in high art galleries around the world, illustrating how an image can easily shift from protest into the unlikely confines of fine art. The irony of this portrait surpassing its original intention is how commercialised it became, as the years went by the paradoxical but poignant message of revolution was forgotten and often disregarded. The image was reproduced and emblazoned on anything that could make money, t-shirts, mugs, bags and even alcohol, Companies ironically peddling the loosely based concepts of rebellion for money. Companies such as Smirnoff was sued in 2000 by the original photographer Alberto Korda, for using his image in one of their advertisements. ‘As a supporter of the ideals for which Che Guevara died, I am not averse to its reproduction by those who wish to propagate his memory and the cause of social justice throughout the world, but I am categorically against the exploitation of Che’s image for the promotion of products such as alcohol, or for any purpose that denigrates the reputation of Che.
‘(Korda 2000) This blind exploitation wasn’t only synonymous with big brand companies, due to this pre-internet virality exploding the popularity of Che’s image, people were becoming increasingly distant from its original context. ‘Terrorist chic is when somebody wears a Che Guevara t-shirt and they have absolutely no idea who Che Guevara is – emptying out the signifiers of radicalism and using them purely for fashion'(LaBruce 2004). Celebrities such as Jay-Z, (Fig 3) Shia LeBeouf and even Prince Harry have been seen wearing t-shirts of the highly politicized and controversial figure, further emphasizing the images ubiquitous nature and how easily images and illustrations can be exploited beyond their original context. The digital age has helped the image reach wider audiences but also transcended into a paradox of itself. When artists put their work out for the public to see, they can’t police how it can and should be interpreted and used, with or without copyright. These are the risks Artists and illustrators take when creating content.
Solidarity and UnityIllustration has the ability to give a ‘face’ to difficult subjects and issues. Visual narratives are accessible to everyone despite language barriers and reading ability which makes them the perfect tool for helping create a unified understanding of an issue. PR1 With everything there will always be two sides to an opinion, artists will have to consider how the audience might interpret the content. If an image or illustration is unaccompanied by text, then it is easy for the context to be misconstrued or misinterpreted.Recently and quite unfortunately most of the recent solidarity has been in response to terror attacks, In May 2017 an attack on the Manchester Arena left 23 killed and 250 injured after a bomb was denoted at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.
As many children where left displaced from their parents, volunteers such as taxi drivers took to twitter to offer assistance, a few days after the attack an illustration of Ariana’s famous bunny ears on an awareness ribbon (Fig 4) surfaced on social media, The creator of this image is unknown but it was retweeted and used as profile pictures on social media sites by the fans to show solidarity and ‘express sympathy for victims of the bombing’ (Ohikuare, 2017) and anyone affected, including Ariana Grande herself. For many people this was an uplifting, commemorative image to share in the wake of the attacks but for some it missed the mark. The problem with sharing illustrations and images involved in sensitive subjects is that there can always be a backlash in an otherwise harmless idea, one twitter user stated that ‘I