Catrin Morgan


Mythical Speech in Reportage Illustration


Can any image be said to be trustworthy or authoritative? We often rely on information external to the image, usually supplied by context and/or additional written language, in order to determine a drawing’s provenance and to decide what it is communicating. Drawings are also participating in their own language of mark making and gesture and this contributes to the way in which they communicate. This is something that becomes particularly interesting when it is applied to documentary or reportage illustration, images which are frequently offered as an alternatives to photo-journalism and which may be accompanied by truth claims both about their content and the context in which they were made.

Reportage is an area of illustration that often depends on observational drawing. Many reportage illustrators are engaged in recording landscapes (both urban and natural) or situations within landscapes. How do the drawings they make communicate their documentary nature? To what extent do we (as an audience) require them to be truthful accounts of what the illustrator saw and what kind of truth is being communicated?

The connotative language of reportage illustration is constructed through choices made by the reportage illustrator about the medium they will work in, the content they will include, the marks they will make and the detail they will go into. Many of the marks made in these images are indexical, serving to link the author of the image (and the image’s contents) to a specific place at a specific moment. I will argue that some of these marks have become part of a visual shorthand for the authenticity of the images themselves and subsequently their ‘honesty’. I will suggest that this is a system of communication which is mythical in the sense outlined by Barthes in Mythologies (1972).


Catrin completed an MA in Communication Art and Design at the RCA in 2008. In 2009 she returned to the RCA to undertake a PhD entitled The Taxonomy of Deception which she completed in 2014. In 2011 she received a scholarship from the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust in support of her research. Her first book, Phantom Settlements , a collaborative project with another illustrator, Mireille Fauchon was published in June 2011. Her second book, an illustrated version of Ben Marcus’s Age of Wire and String was published in 2013. Catrin has exhibited internationally and is currently participating in a long-term collaborative project entitled Cassiopeia. She is represented by dalla Rosa Gallery and is a senior lecturer on the MA Illustration: Authorial Practice at Falmouth University. She also teaches at Norwich University of the Arts.

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