Stop. Look. Think. Share.
Every day, we are faced with a choice: whether we worry and obsess about every single crisis and conflict going on around the world, or we briefly remember that those things are happening and move on. Most people choose the second option because, honestly, it’s much healthier, but the fact that we choose not to think about these problems doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Poverty, violence, and injustice affect the lives of millions of people in places far away from us and also our own countries, and no matter how hard it can be to really think about these issues, taking the time to at least read about them is better than remaining blissfully ignorant.
With that in mind, here are 10 illustrations by Italian artist Paolo Beghini. His beautiful watercolors manage to encapsulate the essence of some of the biggest issues we’re facing in the 21st century. All of his works are, in multiple ways, deceivingly simple. At first glance, they don’t look like they are saying much, but as soon as you look deeper (and check out the captions), you discover exactly what the artist had in mind when creating the image. More than a couple of his illustrations will definitely stay with you for a while and give you some serious food for thought.
"How Nazi ideology is returning across Europe"
More than 70 years after the end of World War II, many (if not all) European countries find themselves in the grips of a new wave of right-wing ideology. In Beghini's illustration, the imperial eagle, a clear reference to Nazi history, pops out of a cuckoo clock in a stark contrast. The bright red is an ominous warning of the blood that could be spilled if this ideology isn't stopped once again.
"About how more firearms do not keep you safe"
In 2018, the world has been stunned by the number of school shootings that have taken place in the US. Everyone wonders, "what will it take for the government to do something to protect the children?" This illustration of a heavily-armed ostrich burying its head in the sand is a metaphor for this lack of action regarding gun control.
"UK: if disenfranchised teenagers feel compelled to arm themselves, we have failed as a society"
Speaking of arms and children, the UK is facing a different yet related crisis. Too many young men from working-class backgrounds find themselves drawn to violence, killing each other in the streets as a way of asserting their dominance in a society where they see no opportunities or support.
"African governments' actions against terrorism may paradoxically prompt many to join groups such as Boko Haram and al-Shabaab"
This poignant illustration manages to represent the cycle of violence breaking society apart in many African countries. As Beghini's caption indicates, the government's violence against terrorists and potential terrorists only begets more violence in the future, as young men who witness it turn violent themselves and seek revenge.
"About the race to find meatless protein products"
The world's hunger for cheap meat is destroying the planet. The amount of resources needed to produce all the burgers and filets that we eat increases every day, and we are in a race against time to find other sources of protein that don't pollute as much. Bugs, like the one in the illustration, are a good bet, with many people including them in their diet as a way of eating more sustainably.
"Will the Earth be able to feed everyone in the future?"
As of June 2018, the world population is 7.6 billion. Needless to say, that is a lot of people, and we are struggling to satisfy the basic necessities of everyone living in this planet. So, the question of how we will be able to feed everyone in the future, when we can't even do that now, looms in the horizon.
“We can no longer pretend that simply letting the market decide what is best for us will lead to anything but disaster.”
A shopping cart full of what looks like trash rolls off a cliff and flies in the air; its future doesn't look very promising. It is an image that evokes a lack of control, utter chaos, and that is what Beghini wants to transmit in his illustration about the perils of an unchecked free market.
"The new overworking trend"
It is no secret that for many people these days working means overworking, and this image of man hunched over his laptop being pushed down by his own decreasing energy level is a clear representation of this problem. What will happen when he gets to the end? Will he stop working or will he keep going because he has no choice?
"How porn is shaping teenagers' ideas about pleasure, power and intimacy"
You might not think that this problem is as relevant as the other ones we've seen up until now, but Beghini wants us to think about the consequences that access to porn can have on impressionable young minds. For instance, the play button on the girl's butt alludes to the objectification of women's bodies, which is not exclusive to porn, but definitely perpetuated by mainstream pornography.
"Virtual Reality: It’s not real, but it doesn’t matter. In some sense, it’s a real experience."
What is the difference between virtual and real? Between an illusion and an experience? That is what Beghini wants us to think about with this illustration of a bee flying near a pixelated flower. Does the image mean something different to the viewer because the flower isn't real? Or are we so used to virtual reality that we don't see the difference anymore?
Paolo Beghini's conceptual illustrations of the problems that affect our daily lives in the 21st century are both compelling and hard to look at. They force the viewer to become an active observer, ask questions, do some research, and share the images, so that other people will also stop to think about these problems for a second.
Other illustrations you might like: