George Butler

  • A young man trying to stay warm whilst he waits for transport north, on the border of Greece and FYROM, 2015

    A young man trying to stay warm whilst he waits for transport north, on the border of Greece and FYROM, 2015
  • A refugee at the fence of the Idomeni transit camp on the border of Greece and FYROM, 2015

    A refugee at the fence of the Idomeni transit camp on the border of Greece and FYROM, 2015
  • The children's ward in Bab al-Hawa hospital between the Turkish and Syrian borders, 2013

    The children's ward in Bab al-Hawa hospital between the Turkish and Syrian borders, 2013
  • Bakery Road in Azaz, a town held by the Free Syrian Army in northern Syria

    Bakery Road in Azaz, a town held by the Free Syrian Army in northern Syria
  • Darul Aman Palace, Kabul, 2014

    Darul Aman Palace, Kabul, 2014
  • Refugees fleeing Syria in their car over the Bab al Salaam border and into Turkey, 2012

    Refugees fleeing Syria in their car over the Bab al Salaam border and into Turkey, 2012
  • Sign post in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, erected by the coalition forces showing how far from home they were, 2006

    Sign post in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, erected by the coalition forces showing how far from home they were, 2006
  • Syrian refugee belongings in a new home in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 2014

    Syrian refugee belongings in a new home in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 2014
  • A young man trying to stay warm whilst he waits for transport north, on the border of Greece and FYROM, 2015
  • A refugee at the fence of the Idomeni transit camp on the border of Greece and FYROM, 2015
  • The children's ward in Bab al-Hawa hospital between the Turkish and Syrian borders, 2013
  • Bakery Road in Azaz, a town held by the Free Syrian Army in northern Syria
  • Darul Aman Palace, Kabul, 2014
  • Refugees fleeing Syria in their car over the Bab al Salaam border and into Turkey, 2012
  • Sign post in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, erected by the coalition forces showing how far from home they were, 2006
  • Syrian refugee belongings in a new home in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 2014

Drawing for the News

It was during my first trip to Afghanistan, at the age of 22, that I came to see that drawing could offer a valid and valuable record of historic and newsworthy events. Unlike the photographers and the news teams on the frontline, who were in Helmand Province in a more official capacity, I was quite rightly kept out of harm's way in the British Army bases. Although I found this frustrating at the time, I was aware that the drawings I made recorded moments that not everyone would see.

Whilst these drawings weren't breaking news, they were a witness account of the more common experiences of a British soldier, sitting around, talking, eating, travelling, and waiting to go to war.

It was this realisation that I tried to carry into the rest of my work. And I soon found myself drawing down a mine in West Africa, in the New York City Fire Department, in the oilfields of Azerbaijan, on an oil rig in the North Sea, and even with the rebel opposition in Syria. My drawings were about telling their stories as best I could - not in competition with photography, because the two are different, but as drawings in their own right. There is an emotional connection between the artist and the subject, and if that is described properly and honestly, drawing can be far more evocative and engaging than any other medium.

Drawing is about empathy and understanding. It is often biased in favour of the subject, which may or may not be a bad thing. It is about comprehending a subject and interpreting it. But most of all it is about the process, the value of sitting on the street in front of a stranger, posing no threat and telling that person's story over an hour or two.

George Butler specialises in reportage illustration. Over the last 10 years he has covered some of the prominent news stories: Afghanistan, Syria, the refugee crisis in Europe, Lebanon and West Africa. In 2013 he won an International Media award from The Next Century Foundation and recognition in the V&A Illustration Awards for his work in Syria. His drawings have been published by the BBC, CNN, The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph and Monocle.

His latest exhibition was at the Illustration Cupboard, 22 Bury Street, London, showing drawings of displaced people from Syria, Myanmar, Romania and Afghanistan as part of London Art Week (July 2016).

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