Hilsman is currently working on an upcoming graphic novel with the artist Christopher Russell. The project will tell real life stories of Syrian exiles through visuals. The project aims to make refugee narratives accessible to all audiences including readers who are new to the conflict.
The graphic novel project aims to create a collection of unconnected narratives that, together, reflect a broad range of experience, background, and cultures. The novel will present stories that defy the expectations of western media’s “typical Syrian refugee” narrative – one that is reductive, sensationalized, and unrepresentative of the average Syrian exile.
The graphic novel project grew out of shared frustration about media coverage of the war, which has myopically focused on the Islamic State instead of the far more compelling and relatable stories of individual Syrian exiles. Western media consumers have been told of countless tragedies and triumphs by refugees and exiles – but we rarely have the opportunity to hear the stories of average people with complicated narratives that accurately represent the diversity of the nation and its uprising. The project will finally give a voice to stories like that of Ahmed, a Syrian exile in Germany who grew up in a pro-regime family and, overtime, was ultimately forced the reconcile the reality of the regime’s violence with the propaganda of his upbringing.
Below are some of the photos taken by Hilsman, which were subsequently used to construct illustrations for the project.