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The stories behind The New Yorker's iconic covers

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    So 24 years ago,
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    I was brought to the New Yorker
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    as art editor
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    to rejuvenate
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    what had by then become
    a somewhat staid institution,
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    and to bring in new artists
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    and to try to bring the magazine
    from its ivory tower
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    into engaging with its time.
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    And it was just
    the right thing for me to do
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    because I've always been captivated
    by how an image can --
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    a simple drawing --
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    can cut through the torrent of images
    that we see every single day.
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    How it can capture a moment,
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    how it can crystallize
    a social trend or a complex event
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    in a way that a lot of words
    wouldn't be able to do,
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    and reduce it to its essence
    and turn it into a cartoon.
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    So I went to the library
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    and I looked at the first cover
    drawn by Rea Irvin in 1925 --
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    a dandy looking at a butterfly
    through his monocle,
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    and we call it Eustace Tilley.
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    And I realized that
    as the magazine had become known
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    for its in-depth research
    and long reports,
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    some of the humor
    had gotten lost along the way,
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    because now often Eustace Tilley
    was seen as a haughty dandy,
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    but in fact, in 1925,
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    when Rea Irvin first drew this image,
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    he did it as part of a humor magazine
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    to amuse the youth of the era,
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    which was the flappers
    of the roaring twenties.
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    And in the library,
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    I found the images
    that really captured the zeitgeist
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    of the Great Depression.
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    And it showed us
    not just how people dressed
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    or what the cars looked like,
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    but also what made them laugh,
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    what their prejudices were,
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    and you really got a sense
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    of what it felt like
    to be alive in the '30s.
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    So I called on contemporary artists,
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    such as Adrian Tomine here.
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    I often call on narrative artists --
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    cartoonists, children's book authors --
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    and I give them themes such as,
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    you know, what it's like
    to be in the subway,
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    or Valentine's Day,
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    and they send me sketches.
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    And once the sketches
    are approved by the editor,
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    David Remnick,
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    it's a go.
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    And I love the way
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    those images are actually
    not telling you what to think.
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    But they do make you think,
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    because the artist is actually --
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    it's almost a puzzle;
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    the artist is drawing the dots,
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    and you, the reader,
    have to complete the picture.
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    So to get this image
    on the left by Anita Kunz,
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    or the one on right by Tomer Hanuka,
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    you have to play spot the differences.
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    And it is something that ...
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    It's really exciting to see
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    how the engagement with the reader ...
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    how those images really capture --
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    play with the stereotypes.
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    But when you get it,
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    it rearranges the stereotypes
    that are in your head.
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    But the images don't
    just have to show people,
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    sometimes it can be a feeling.
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    Right after September 11,
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    I was at a point,
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    like everybody else,
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    where I really didn't know how to deal
    with what we were going through,
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    and I felt that no image
    could capture this moment,
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    and I wanted to just do a black cover,
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    like no cover.
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    And I talked to my husband,
    cartoonist Art Spiegelman,
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    and mentioned to him
    that I was going to propose that,
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    and he said, "Oh, if you're
    going to do a black cover,
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    then why don't you do
    the silhouette of the Twin Towers,
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    black on black?"
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    And I sat down to draw this,
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    and as soon as I saw it,
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    a shiver ran down my spine
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    and I realized
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    that in this refusal to make an image,
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    we had found a way to capture loss
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    and mourning,
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    and absence.
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    And it's been a profound thing
    that I learned in the process --
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    that sometimes some of the images
    that say the most
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    do it with the most spare means.
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    And a simple image can speak volumes.
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    So this is the image
    that we published by Bob Staake
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    right after the election of Barack Obama,
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    and captured a historic moment.
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    But we can't really plan for this,
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    because in order to do this,
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    we have to let the artist
    experience the emotions that we all feel
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    when that is happening.
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    So back in November 2016,
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    during the election last year,
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    the only image that we
    could publish was this,
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    which was on the stand
    on the week that everybody voted.
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    (Laughter)
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    Because we knew
    somebody would feel this --
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    (Laughter)
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    when the result of the election
    was announced.
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    And when we found out the result,
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    we really were at a loss,
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    and this is the image
    that was sent by Bob Staake again,
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    and that really hit a chord.
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    And again,
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    we can't really figure out
    what's going to come next,
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    but here it felt like we didn't
    know how to move forward,
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    but we did move forward,
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    and this is the image that we published
    after Donald Trump's election
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    and at the time of the Women's March
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    all over the US.
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    So over those 24 years,
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    I have seen over 1,000 images
    come to life week after week,
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    and I'm often asked
    which one is my favorite,
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    but I can't pick one
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    because what I'm most proud of
    is how different every image is,
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    one from the other.
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    And that's due to the talent
    and the diversity
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    of all of the artists that contribute.
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    And now, well,
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    now, we're owned by Russia,
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    so --
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    (Laughter)
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    In a rendering by Barry Blitt here,
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    Eustace has become
    Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley.
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    And the butterfly is none other
    than a flabbergasted Donald Trump
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    flapping his wings,
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    trying to figure out
    how to control the butterfly effect,
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    and the famed logo
    that was drawn by Rae Irvin in 1925
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    is now in Cyrillic.
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    So, what makes me really excited
    about this moment
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    is the way that ...
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    You know, free press
    is essential to our democracy.
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    And we can see from
    the sublime to the ridiculous
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    that artists can capture what is going on
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    in a way that an artist
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    armed with just India ink and watercolor
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    can capture and enter
    into the cultural dialogue.
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    It puts those artists
    at the center of that culture,
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    and that's exactly
    where I think they should be,
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    because the main thing we need
    right now is a good cartoon.
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    Thank you.
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    (Applause)
Title:
The stories behind The New Yorker's iconic covers
Speaker:
Françoise Mouly
Description:

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
08:29

English subtitles

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