Janet Hamlin

Illustrator and Courtroom Artist

How to be a Visual Journalist

Contemporary artist, author, and illustrator Janet Hamlin has worked as the sole courtroom artist for news media at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base tribunals since 2006, documenting the trials of the detainees. Since cameras and recording equipment are forbidden in the trials, her drawings form the primary visual record of events that have taken place there. Her book Sketching Guantanamo: Court Sketches of the Military Tribunals brings together all the sketches Hamlin made between 2006 and 2013. Added to the collection of illustrations are contributions by reporters Carol Rosenberg and Michelle Shephard, and Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver, who was detained at Guantanamo until 2008.

As an artist on assignment from the worlds media (AFP, Reuters, CNN, Der Spiegel, etc.) Hamlin was asked to act like a ‘visual journalist’. ‘But of course there are times when it's very difficult to be objective, and I do have to edit and interpret,’ she said in an interview. ‘The whole time I'm hoping to bring back a compelling image that is as true to what happened as possible. I hope to capture what is going on as honestly as possible — in detail and emotion — and convey what is going on. The responsibility as the only visual recording of these trials is a large one, and I hope to live up to that responsibility.’

Author, Artist, Art, Netherlands PINC.17