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The Illustrated Vox Humana

When we got the call to design the event branding and host a talk at a Studs Terkel celebration, we were floored. Studs represents the most fundamental of core values behind Illustrated Press—from his storytelling style to his dedication to Chicago.

The authenticity and richness of experience is what stands out in Studs’ writing. People sound like people in a Studs Terkel interview— their pies still baking in the oven, their books disheveled on the floor, their unresolved questions about race, work and American dreams lingering on the page. He humanized common traits that could otherwise seem foreign.

We like to think we share that same insatiable drive to deliver a holistic experience to the reader.

At the Illustrated Press, we’ve crafted our particular brand of comics journalism, pairing traditional reportage with sequential art. When we walk the city streets in search of stories, we go together: Darryl Holliday is a reporter for DNAinfo Chicago and Erik Rodriguez is a graphic designer for Columbia College. Our process of neatly entwining illustration and on-the-ground journalism developed organically, from our first story describing a wedding at Cook County Jail to our more recent work illustrating the effects of gun violence on the city. We interview everyday residents and city officials. We sculpt and script our text; we storyboard, we illustrate. We frame our city panel by panel until the reporting and sequential art resemble a single medium rather than its separate parts.

It’s a process that’s done justice, we’ve been told, to Kathy Herwig’s big question, which took us on a walking tour of Edgewater to find out how Chicago neighborhoods form and Nortasha Stingley, whose journey and heartbreak after her daughter’s murder was not easily expressed with words on a page.

Our medium allows us to eschew the simplification of human experience into soundbites and snapshots, in favor of a complex picture of a time and place. The illustration often feels more personal, and therefore more engaging, than an objective photo or editorial graphic. Comics journalism engages readers, inviting them to imagine the subject as it is and participate in their unique experience. Likewise, it forces the artist to consider the constant interaction between setting and subject.

Like Studs, we’re attracted to the faces in the crowd. The voice at the other end of the line. “The nomadic, transient nature of contemporary life” that he describes in Division Street.

A Studs Terkel interview is the Vox Humana arranged to setting and sound. He had a reporter’s attention to detail paired with an illustrator’s storytelling skills. He knew how to listen and see people as they are.

That legacy, and the innovation that’s come with it, is alive in Chicago as nowhere else.

- The Illustrated Press