The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders

The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders

by Emmanuel Guibert


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In 1986, Afghanistan was torn apart by a war with the Soviet Union. This graphic novel/photo-journal is a record of one reporter's arduous and dangerous journey through Afghanistan, accompanying the Doctors Without Borders. Didier Lefevre's photography, paired with the art of Emmanuel Guibert, tells the powerful story of a mission undertaken by men and women dedicated to mending the wounds of war.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781596433755
Publisher: First Second
Publication date: 05/12/2009
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 787,190
Product dimensions: 10.86(w) x 8.96(h) x 1.02(d)
Age Range: 15 - 18 Years

About the Author

Emmanuel Guibert's most recent book for First Second was the critically acclaimed Alan's War, the memoir of a WWII G.I. His close friendship with Didier Lefevre inspired him to combine art and photography to create this momentous book.

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The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
The_Woman_Who_Wants_It_Al More than 1 year ago
It's not what you think. That's the thing that came to my mind when I began reading this photography book. It's not really a photography book, it's an essay, it's a comic, it's contemporary, it's graphics, it's an illustrated adventure from 1986 and it's a true story. Photojournalist Didier Lefèvre joined a team of Doctors Without Borders in 1986 and followed them into Afghanistan to illustrate their efforts to help ease the suffering of the people by providing medical services. The country was literally torn apart by the war between the Soviet Union who invaded Afghanistan and the Afghan Resistance supported by America and other Western Countries. Once the Soviets retreated there was no peace but extremists took over and created even more war and conflict amongst the people. The American people were presented with a steep price ticket for getting involved on September 11, 2003. This is the backdrop of the story. A mess that I cannot really understand enough because I don't know enough about it, really. So I begin reading. The book is illustrated much like a comic book and it is Didier's photographs that fill in the story. I find myself reading and looking at the image thinking, this is not just a story, this happened. And I read, and read and read. "You know, for example, if you have an aperture of 11 with a shutter speed of 1/60th, and you decide to close the diaphragm down to 5-6 for a shallower depth of field, you'll automatically have to increase shutter speed by two stops". "Hm". "That becomes second nature. But of course being able to produce a technically good picture doesn't mean you'll make great pictures. For great pictures you really have to tear your eyes out. I want to pour all my energy into improving my photography. I want to take good pictures." "And what is a good picture?" "I don't know." It is a story so well told that it draws you in- completely. A documentary as good as as it gets. Photojournalism as it is intended to be - an eye witness account shown to us image by image. Told by a naive and at first innocent photographer who is in way over his head but somehow manages. Illustrated with humor and pictures so simplistic and gripping. Each a testament to how incredibly lucky we are to live in peace and in a democratic environment. A journey serving as a dark reminder that even idealistic and well meaning people can die or get very ill. What Emmanuel Guibert has done with the book is for lack of a better word amazing. Was it not for his graphics and the way he has put it together - we wouldn't be able to read it. Emmanuel makes us watch and observe the story. His illustrations give us a much needed rest during the heartbreak we see. Doubtful that it could have been told in a more suitable way. This holds true especially for our society that doesn't like to be confronted with the realities of what war really looks like for those who are in it. To sum it up, it is not an easy book. It will make you think, ponder and perhaps you may get angry on why war is still tolerated. But you read it anyway and you think about it some more. The beauty is, this is what Didier Lefèvre had set out to do. To tell a story as a photojournalist and he has done it masterfully and with heart. I am with him through the journey, I know when he is happy that he can capture through the lens of the camera what he can't bare to watch with his eyes open. And I cry when he cries.
clfisha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There is something truly wonderful that only comics can bring to a memoir, perhaps its the visual immediacy or the blending of fact and realistic fiction that provide a unique emotional resonance but whatever is The Photographer is an amazing example. It takes the tale of Didier Lefevre's trip to Afghanistan during the Russian-Afghan war in order to document the activity of the charity MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières). Black and white photographs mix seamlessly with colour illustrations to tell a simple but emotional tale. The book is split into 3 parts: firstly we follow the naive Lefevre as arrives in Pakistan and sneaks over the border to Afghanistan, then we glimpse the work of the MSF in harsh war torn conditions (warning often quite graphic) and lastly his solo trip trying to return home as quickly as he can. Lefevre is the perfect narrator, instantly identifiable as he struggles with the language and the culture. His naivety makes the story very approachable as we learn alongside him yet it also allows the tale to unfold without comment or bias, it simply just is. The glimpse of Afghan culture is fascinating and whilst not an historical account it does provides a good overview ,although perhaps more importantly allowing us to put human face to the current troubles.
ElizaJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reason for Reading: Cybils nomineeSummary: Photographer Didier Lefevre was offered to accompany the MSF (the original French version of Doctors Without Borders) on a 3 month mission to Afghanistan in 1986 when the Soviet-Afghan War was raging. The book tells of his journey from Pakistan to the mission site in Afghanistan, his stay and his decision to make the journey back to Pakistan alone which almost cost him his life.Comments: An incredibly brilliant, powerful work of art! At first I thought this was going to be about current affairs in Afghanistan, so was quite surprised to find the memoir taking place during the Soviet era invasion of Afghanistan. The graphical presentation, the artwork is phenomenal. A very unique combination of cartooning and photographs have been combined together which at first, I admit, put me a bit off kilter but once I got used to the presentation I found myself seeing real life images even when I was looking at an illustration. An odd sensation but extremely well done. The authors/illustrator portray so much on the journey: the beauty of the land, the terror of illegally crossing the border, traveling under cover of night, watching for Soviet planes to drop bombs on them if sighted. Then at the medical camp there is the large amount of local people coming for help for such things as a humongous cancerous tumour on a toe, a foot that is so rotted the man has pulled it off that morning and asks if they can put it back on for him; then the war wounded come in: a child with half his face blown off, a man with shrapnel in his back, a paralyzed girl with one tiny piece of shrapnel that has severed her spinal cord. The photographs, the text, the illustrations capture the spirit, the agony, the willpower, the drive of the doctors who come to work here in non sterile makeshift tents to treat these people, sometimes just so they can die with dignity.Didier's journey back is even worse than coming as he has had enough at the end of the three months when he finds that the team is going to be staying an extra week so with some guidance to a nearby town where he will be certain to get a guide he sets off on his to journey back to Pakistan. Didier finds that without the resources and experiences of the "pros" he accompanied on the way out there he is a walking target and with exposure to criminals, crooked cops and the elements he almost loses his life. A magnificent, compelling story that concentrates on human relations and interactions without getting political. The political situation is discussed in the beginnings of the book to set the reader in the situation as it is happening but the focus of the book is people, how they treat each other both good and bad in situations both large and small. Highly recommended!
BrianDewey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer. I dreamed of working with words all day, bringing imaginary people to life, and getting to work wherever I wanted. Then I tried actually being one. There's no glamour. It's just hard work, and I'm no good at it.In the past few years, I've grown more interested in photography, and I'm seduced by the thought of being a photojournalist. Talk about glamour! Travelling the world, meeting exotic people in strange locales, and bringing back stunning images that change the world. Boy, if I'd only taken photography classes in high school, think of the life I could have lead!Well, reading The Photographer got rid of that myth. Photojournalism is probably the farthest profession from glamour. It's dirty, tiring, boring, probably soul-destroying. The Photographer is the true account of Didier Lefèvre's assignment to photograph a Medicines Sans Frontiers mission to Afghanistan in the 1980's. It was a tough journey. The Russians didn't want them there, so they had to sneak themselves into the country, over treacherous mountain passes, with a caravan of arms smugglers. The mission then set up a makeshift hospital in the sanitary wasteland of a remote Afghan village. Isolation and homesickness drove Lefèvre to try to leave Afghanistan early, and the return journey nearly killed him.What did Lefèvre get for his 3 months on assignment? He lost 14 teeth from furunculosis, and he got 6 published photographs out of almost 4,000 taken. Yes, in hindsight, I'm glad I studied computer science.That said, The Photographer will increase your respect for the doctors in MSF, and for the troubles that the civilian Afghan population has endured for decades. It passes the open-your-eyes-to-the-larger-world test of good literature.I also enjoyed The Photographer's innovative storytelling: It's a graphic novel that interleaves the frames and narration of the graphic novel with frames and contact sheets from Lefèvre's film. It's effective visual storytelling, and in hindsight it's the most natural way to tell a story from the point of view of a photographer. Very well done.
deslivres5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This graphic novel chronicles a journey of French photographer, Didier Lefèvre, to Afganistan in the late 1980's with Médecins Sans Frontières to set up a field hospital. The trials/tribulations of the journey start in Pakistan and continue on the return to France. I found the format, of including Didier Lefèvre's contact sheets, especially with some (I think his chosen shots) marked and blocked with red pencil, fascinating. There is only one color photograph (taken with a college's camera loaded with color film) in the entire set, so the contrast between the graphic novel's color drawings and the b/w photographs is striking.I thoroughly enjoyed following Lefèvre's first foray into Afganistan via this medium.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JDawson More than 1 year ago
A quick read that will stay with you. The real treasure here is the photography. I had read a bit on Afghanistan - mostly Ahmed Rashid - before picking this up. This book helped me develop an emotional connection to the crisis that prose alone isn't always conducive to. Sufficient illustrations and a good story supplement Didier's photographs.
TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
This was such a suprising book. I found myself completely rapt to see how well the execution of the book worked--the interleaving actual photographs with graphic depictions of the travel and work of Doctors Without Borders in the northeast corner of Afghanistan. Didier Lefevre, the photographer of the title, and his collaborators on this book, had personality enough to keep the tone moving constantly through interesting, awestruck, serious, funny, fearful. While the beauty of Afghanistan was constantly remarked upon, it was only at the end that I could see beauty there, in that stony and stark environment. There is something about the quality of the light and the air that is absolutely unique, and unforgettable. This book gives us something very special. It is a great gift shared.