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Work / Illustration

Laura Callaghan depicts how Germany would look if women were in charge

German newspaper ZEITmagazin conducted a survey that asked women across the country to map out what the nation would look like if men were removed from the decision making process. The article, that touches on topics ranging from cars and politics to TV and sex, is accompanied by a series of illustrations by London-based Laura Callaghan, with separate commissions for online and print. Her distinctive style brings the information to life in images that are packed with energy, attitude and humour. It’s Nice That caught up with Laura to find out more about the work.

What were your first thoughts when you saw the research?

Michael Biedowicz, the picture editor approached me in early July asking if I’d be interested in working on the upcoming issue which would ask ‘what Germany would look like if women were to make all the decisions?’ It’s a really interesting concept and I was curious about what would be different.

Some of the statistics were surprising (I really thought women were big thriller movie fans!) some very unsurprising (women spend a significantly larger part of their day as carers) but, by and large, there didn’t seem to be colossal differences between the choices made by both genders. The author of the article Marie Schmidt makes a valid point, that perhaps the chasm between the sexes isn’t so vast after all and to get a true sense of the different decisions humans make we need to focus more on economic circumstance, social situation and race.

How did you begin to digest the information and decide what you were going to respond to?

The editorial team had chosen the particular topics they would like me to focus in on, so the difficult part was taken care of for me in a way! I made some thumbnails of possible compositions, narrowed it down and sketched out the roughs. Once some amends had been made, and the English signage I had put in place had been translated, those were approved and I inked and digitally coloured the illustrations. ZEITmagazint was quite keen on using a pared back colour palette and referenced a piece I had created for Cut Out Fest in 2015 as a starting point.

The online images had a much shorter turnaround time (it’s a different team who take care of these) so were a bit more prescriptive. There was still some time to play around with how the topics were drawn however — like the sex positions, I wanted to draw those from the woman’s point of view so their partners aren’t really visible at all.

Which pieces were the most challenging to illustrate?
I had to draw 10 cars for the online series which was hard. I’m really bad at drawing cars, man-made objects with a very recognisable shape are difficult because if you get something wrong people see it straight away.

Which are your favourites from the series and why?
Probably the grocery scene, I think the composition works well and I had a lot of fun designing those teeny food labels – I also got an opportunity to learn some German words! I enjoyed drawing the cinema scene too. In my rough images I had created fictional film posters (see below), I ended up drawing real film posters in the end but the process was fun.

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin

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Laura Callaghan: ZEITmagazin, Cinema Rough