Olivier Kugler’s career as a reportage illustrator can be traced back to a copy of the Tintin story, Prisoners of the Sun that his mother gave him as a child, a book that made him curious about the world and inspired him to create his own comic-book stories.
Kugler truly found his medium during his time in New York when he was drawing an abandoned car wreck when a man – Alberto – climbed out of it – revealing that it was his home. Kugler drew Alberto as he told his story, adding notes to the sketches to create the image/text blend that has comprised his work ever since.
Kugler has travelled widely: in 2012 Oxfam sent him to Burkina Faso to report on the food crisis in the Sahel and the resulting work was published in The Guardian and the Italian Internazionale magazine. From 2009-2010 he created ‘Tea In Iran’, drawings and texts documenting the daily life of a trucker he met in Iran. It was published in the French magazine XXI and was the overall winner of the V&A Illustration Award (2011).
In December 2013 Kugler spent two weeks in Domiz, a refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan where he interviewed and photographed Syrian refugees. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) commissioned him to create a series of drawings with texts documenting the circumstances of people living in the camp. Based on the material gathered on location Kugler drew a small series of illustration that were published in Harper’s (USA), Le Monde Diplomatique (Germany), Internazionale (Italy) and Port (UK). The drawings became the overall winner at the World Illustration Awards 2015. On subsequent commissions from MSF Kugler created more illustrations portraying Syrian refugees he met on Kos Island as well as in the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp. A grant from the Arts Council England enabled Kugler to create additional material documenting the situation of Syrians he met in London, Birmingham and Simmozheim, the village at the edge of the Black Forest where Kugler grew up.
In October 2017 a 80-page collection of this project was published in book form under the title ‘Dem Krieg Entronnen’ by the Swiss German publisher Edition Moderne. A year later Myriad Editions (UK) and Pennsylvania State University Press (USA) published the book under the title ‘Escaping Wars and Waves_Encounters with Syrian Refugees”. The German edition was awarded in Oslo with the Jury Prize of the European Design Awards 2018.
Work from the project was exhibited in Germany, Switzerland, France and the UK. A highlight is the inclusion in the group show ‘Journeys Drawn_Illustration from the Refugee Crisis’ at the House of Illustration in London. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/nov/10/reunited-syrian-refugee-and-the-artist-who-drew-him-in-calais