The Photographer

The Photographer

Graphic Novel - 2009
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Alan's War creator Emmanuel Guibert combines photos and narrative art to tell the story of photojournalist Didier Lefevre's travels in Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders.

In 1986, Afghanistan was torn apart by a war between the Soviet Union and the Mujahidin. Didier Lefevre was a photojournalist who accompanied a Doctors Without Borders team on a mission at the height of the war. In the company of an arms caravan, Lefevre and the doctors climbed across arid mountain passes to reach a tiny hut deep in the war zone, which would serve as a field hospital.

This is Didier's story, in his own words, with his own photographs. Through his camera, we witnesses humanity at every extreme--violence, despair, generosity, and heroism--against the backdrop of the vast, barren Afghan landscape. Emmanuel Guibert has combined Lefevre's unflinching photography with his own spare, expressive illustrations to achieve a visual memoir that challenges the mind and strikes at the heart.

As the consequences of that war continue to reverberate in the region, The Photographer focuses on some of its true heroes: the doctors who risk death to save lives and mend the wounds of war.

Publisher: New York : First Second, 2009
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9781596433755
Branch Call Number: 070.49095 L5215G 2009
Characteristics: xi, 267 pages : chiefly illustrations (some color), maps ; 30 cm


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Feb 27, 2021

In 1986, a young French photographer accompanied a MSF humanitarian mission in Afghanistan. Since the Russian army controlled the roads, the mission traveled on foot through dangerous mountains ruled by smugglers and warlords. This book illustrates the mission through hundreds of black and white photographs; the gaps between photographs are filled-in using modern full color comic-book narration. This real-life adventure story is fascinating, and the book is a true work of unique art. Two of the interesting characters in this story play important roles with MSF-USA in later life: Juliette Fournot and John McGill.

Apr 11, 2017

Great story, but the text is small and hard to read, some photos are small and hard to see. A map would have been helpful.

WVMLStaffPicks Sep 17, 2014

A book of stunning originality, blending storytelling, photography and graphics. A story of immense bravery, adventure, and compassion. French photographer Didier Lefevre joins a group of Doctors Without Borders and travels with them to a remote village in Afghanistan, where they set up a make-shift hospital. His story brings to light the suffering and perseverance of the Afghan people and the doctors who risk their own lives to help the most vulnerable and needy. It is part memoir, part history lesson and a truly unforgettable read.

Sep 18, 2012

many photos are that much deeper with the story, This is an incredible story, full of insight, compassion, yada yada and a moment spanning 4 months that changed lives. Its deep, its true and it is conducted in the highest form of art and storytelling by using many techneeks in beautiful layout to have that story unfold.

Oct 30, 2011

In 1986, French photographer Didier Lefevre accompanies a Doctors Without Borders humanitarian mission into Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. The story follows the group as they prepare for their mission, trek from Pakistan into the Northern region of Afghanistan, set up a make-shift hospital to treat the wounded, and finally trek out of the country and return to France. Lefevre is admittedly naïve about the politics and culture of the region, which gives the reader a fresh perspective from which to view this conflict. Because of the nature of the medium (graphic novel, interspersed with photography), the book is seemingly fast-paced. The text is almost exclusively dialogue and the story is told through a number of characters. This layering of stories along with the layering of medium creates a richness in the work that makes it very hard to put down.
"The Photographer", coupled with a film like "Charlie Wilson's War" might be an interesting pop-culture introduction to the Soviet-Afghanistan conflict for those who were previously unaware or uninterested.
Those interested in this work for both the topic and the format may also be interested in Ted Rall's "To Afghanistan and Back: A graphic travelogue"

Oct 16, 2011

Mesmerizing. Beautiful graphics and story, well-told.

May 14, 2010

Questions for Book Club:

1. What is the value of combining both photographs and illustrations in the book?

2. How does the book build suspense?

3. Compare to “Long way gone; what is the what?; Five quarters of an Orange; Say your one of them” -- these all take place in zones or times of conflict. – How does a setting of conflict/war affect the narrative and plot of a story?

4. How do recent events in Afghanistan affect your reading of this book?

5. Describe some examples of cultural conflict/misunderstanding that are presented in the book. Who is responsible for this conflict? Could it have been mitigated?

6. Who is the most sympathetic character/group in the book and the most unsympathetic? Why?

7. How would you describe Didier Lefevre?

8. The illustrator states that he was influenced by the Tintin illustrations – could you provide examples of similarities?

9. In this graphic novel what do you think is more important the illustrations/photos or the text? Do you think this is true for all graphic novels?

10. Is a graphic novel – ‘literature’?

11. How does the graphic novel differ in telling a narrative from the novel/biography?

12. Could this book be described as an example of “Quest narrative”?

13. How is masculinity portrayed in the book? Femininity?

14. Do you feel this is a positive or negative portrayal of MSF?

15. Describe what you felt were the best examples in the book of
• Ego
• Compassion


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