On Wednesday November 4th, a packed crowd of students, alumni, and community members gathered in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art to view images of the Bosnian War.
These weren’t photos, but rather pen and ink drawings excerpted from Joe Sacco’s 2000 graphic novel “Safe Area Goražde”. Sacco, a founder of the comic journalism medium, presented the images as part of a free public lecture on his work, and in conjunction with an exhibition of his artwork at the museum. The speech covered Sacco’s methodology as well as the logistical measures involved in documenting a war zone. “Goražde” depicts Sacco’s experience in a municipality of Bosnia during the Bosnian war and his interactions with its residents.
Though Sacco considers his work a journalistic endeavor, he admits there exist some differences between the prose journalist and the comic journalist. Where a traditional journalist is bound by the facts, a comic journalist is able to take artistic license with their work and creatively depict actions. The University of Oregon graduate was sure to stress that both the prose and comics journalist’s work is born of dedicated attention to detail and exhaustive note taking. In his own work, Sacco tried to depict the settings in as realistic a manner as possible while taking liberty with the expressions of people.
When asked if he considered himself a journalist an artist, Sacco preferred the term cartoonist. And though the majority of his works deal with war zones he would not go as far to describe himself as a war correspondent.
During the Q&A session of the evening, Sacco described his methodology. “Goražde” was a decade in the making, from idea conception to publication. He spent four months in the war zone to record interviews and details, going as far as to check building layouts with people who lived in the area.
Quoting legendary journalist Edward R Murrow, Sacco also discussed the necessity of a journalist to acknowledge the subjectivity of their work. The reflexive narrative of the comic concedes Sacco’s inability to be objective while presenting as detailed depiction as possible, presenting a true experience as possible to the reader.
“The great stories are the ones journalists tell around the table, but cut out of their stories,” said Sacco.
The audience responded to the lecture with appreciation and interest.
“[Sacco’s work] is really the first instance of comics as heavy story telling,” said Tim Mancello, a music technician who attended the lecture as part of a class on graphic novels.
Sacco currently resides in Portland, Oregon and hopes to move on to lighter fare in the near future. The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art will be showing his work through February 5, 2012.