Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Photographer

The Photographer is the harrowing, true life story of Didier Lefèvre, a French photographer who accompanied a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) mission into Afghanistan in 1986 during the Soviet Invasion. Along the difficult trek done mostly on foot, Lefèvre documented visits with local soldiers and civilians, beautiful scenery, dangerous obstacles, domestic scenes, makeshift medical stations, and treatments both severe and mundane. He saw children and adults whose lives were rocked by violence, enjoyed the limited amount of local hospitality, and witnessed the machinations needed to travel and acquire supplies in a war-torn country. This story is full of bleak conditions, resilient folk, and some grim humor.

This graphic novel is a combination of pictures and photographs, drawn from Lefèvre's work and journals during the trip. His photos appeared in a number of French magazines, and he died of a heart attack in 2007 just as his work began to reach a wider audience. Emmanuel Guibert and Frédéric Lemercier provided the drawings and coloring respectively. Guibert is a prolific French comics artist who has a number of books published in English, including Sardine in Outer Space and The Professor's Daughter.

This graphic novel has been well reviewed. Chris Hedges wrote in his New York Times review that the book is lengthy but "build[s] in power and momentum as it recounts the arduous trip into mountain villages, the confrontation with the devastation of war, the struggle to save lives and Lefèvre’s foolish and nearly fatal attempt to return to Pakistan ahead of the team." Douglas Wolk wrote that the book's images pack an "emotional wallop." Shaun Manning praised the book, saying that it belonged "among the comics medium's best-known and highest regarded stories."

An excerpt, reviews, and other information are available here from the book's publisher First Second.

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